Sunday, October 11, 2015

Long Island Town Gets Tripped Up By Undercover Testers, Allegedly Discriminatory Zoning Code That Violates Fair Housing Act; Eligibility Requirements That Allegedly Create Preferences In Favor Of Residents From Predominantly White Suburbs Leads To $200K Settlement

In New York City, the Fair Housing Justice Center reports:
  • On October 1, 2015, Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson of the Eastern District of New York signed an order that resolves fair housing claims brought by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and Long Island Housing Services, Inc. (LIHS) against the Village of Great Neck Plaza.

    The lawsuit alleged that the Village zoning code discriminates against African Americans by imposing eligibility criteria for affordable housing that gives a preference to local residents. The Plaintiffs allege that these preferences perpetuate residential racial segregation in the predominantly white Nassau County suburb. The lawsuit also alleges that the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency (NCIDA), which is not a party to this settlement, provided financial assistance for affordable housing in the Village of Great Neck Plaza subject to the Village zoning code’s discriminatory requirements and preferences.

    The two plaintiff fair housing organizations cooperated on a joint investigation in 2013. Each organization used undercover testers to determine whether and how the Village’s residency preference system was being applied by the Village to screen applicants for 19 affordable apartments in a newly constructed 94-unit rental development called The Maestro.

    The testing revealed that the Village was enforcing durational residency preferences by giving the highest priority to long-term residents of the predominately white Village of Great Neck Plaza, the next highest preference to long-term residents of the predominately white Great Neck Peninsula, and the lowest preference to long-term residents of Nassau County. The testing also documented that the Village applied an illegal age requirement and excluded applicants with disabilities with live-in home health care aides.


    Under the order, the Village will inform housing developers about the expanded zoning categories, the existence of available land for development, and the incentives that the Village will make available for the development of affordable housing. The plaintiffs FHJC and LIHS will provide fair housing training to the Village Trustees, the Mayor, and employees responsible for planning, zoning, and other land-use activities.

    In addition, the Village agreed to pay $200,000 to the plaintiffs in damages and attorney’s fees.
Source: Discriminatory Zoning Claims Against Village of Great Neck Plaza Resolved (Agreement Ends Use of Discriminatory Preferences and Fosters Development of Additional Affordable Housing Units).