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Welcome our 2018 Summer Interns and Law Clerks!

Posted on 13. Jun, 2018 by in Blog

 

Madeline Aruffo is a third-year law student at Tulane University School of Law. Prior to law school, Madeline attended Boston University, and double majored in philosophy and psychology. She has a passion for housing equality and public interest law, and loves living in New Orleans. 

 

 

Cameron Bertron is the president of her second-year class at Tulane University Law School and serves on the executive board of the Entertainment and Art Law Society.  She grew up in North Florida and worked in film production in New York City before attending law school. Bertron earned her BFA from Florida State University.

 

 

   

Christopher Kerrigan is a second-year law student at Loyola New Orleans College of Law. Mr. Kerrigan previously served as a City Councilmember in Eureka, California from 2000-2008. Mr. Kerrigan has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Humboldt State University and and Masters of Science in Political Psychology from Queen’s University Belfast. He also enjoys playing tennis.

 

 

Maya Newman is an undergraduate at Tulane University, majoring in Sociology and Social Policy and minoring in Public Health. She became passionate about fair housing policy as an intern at the New Orleans Mission, where she assisted formerly homeless people with their housing searches. Maya is excited to promote the right to safe, affordable, and fair housing for all in Louisiana. 

 

 

Aviv Rau is a senior at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where she studies Sociology and American Studies. Outside of the classroom, Aviv is engaged with Connecticut’s labor rights movement and co-hosts a podcast called Unwind the Line. An Atlanta native, Aviv is excited to spend the summer in New Orleans interning with GNOFHAC’s Education and Outreach department. 

 

 

Patrick Wroe, originally from Austin, Texas, is interning this summer with GNOFHAC through the Leadership in Educational Equity Summer Fellowship, in partnership with Teach for America. After graduating from Tulane University with a degree in finance, he joined Arthur Ashe Charter School as a 7th grade Special Education teacher and spent the past two years in the classroom ensuring his students received quality education. Patrick is excited to join GNOFHAC this summer and support the policy and advocacy work on fair housing issues throughout Louisiana.

 

Best Friends Day: Fair Housing and Assistance Animals

Posted on 08. Jun, 2018 by in Blog

June 8th is National Best Friends Day. For many, their best friend is their pet; for some, their furry friend isn’t just a pet, but an animal that provides necessary assistance or service they need due to a disability. Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers are required to make reasonable and necessary accommodations to people with disabilities, including allowing a service or assistance animal. 

An assistance animal is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. For example, an assistance animal could be a cat that alleviates the symptoms of depression or anxiety. Any animal can be an assistance animal (as long as it it necessary and reasonable) and a housing provider must accept a letter from a doctor, psychiatrist, social worker, or someone familiar with the disability as proof of the need for an assistance animal.

A service animal is a dog or pony that is trained to do work or perform tasks for someone with a disability. For example, a service animal could be a guide dog, or a dog that can detect blood sugar changes in a person with diabetes and warn them if their blood sugar gets too high or too low. If the need for a service animal is not obvious, a housing provider may ask: (1) is this a service animal that is required because of a disability? and (2) what work or tasks has the animal been trained to perform?

Housing providers cannot charge a pet fee or pet deposit, or enforce breed or size restrictions, for a service or assistance animal. If your housing provide has denied your request for an accommodation due to a disability, such as allowing you to have an assistance or service animal, call the GNO Fair Housing Action Center at 877-445-2100.

How you can get involved

Posted on 30. Apr, 2018 by in Blog

Today is the last day of Fair Housing Month, but our work for fair housing continues throughout the year. Here’s how you can get involved and continue to fight discrimination and segregation across Louisiana:

  1. Donate to GNOFHAC on Give NOLA Day 

    On Tuesday, May 1st, every dollar donated to New Orleans non-profits through givenola.org will be boosted by extra funds from the Give NOLA Lagniappe Fund. The goal of Give NOLA Day is to inspire the community to come together to support the work of local nonprofit organizations. GNOFHAC is the only full-service fair housing center in Louisiana, and your donation will fight for those who’ve been harassed, turned down or evicted because of who they are. Schedule your donation now!

  2. Sign-up for action alerts

    Our action page can help you stay engaged on all the issues that matter to you.  Please use this page to find and track legislation, look up your lawmaker, register to vote, and access tools you need to build a more inclusive community. Subscribe to our email list to stay up-to-date on GNOFHAC policy initiatives and community events.

  3. Become a tester

    Testers, also known as “mystery shoppers,” are people in the community who take on the role of a perspective homeowner or renter to help fair housing centers investigate discrimination. Testing involves using people with similar profiles, but who differ in one protected characteristic, such as race or family status. Testers need a flexible schedule and they are provided with a small stipend. 

  4. Invite GNOFHAC to do a fair housing training at your organization or school

    GNOFHAC provides trainings tailored to the needs of your organization. Participants of these trainings include landlords, real estate agents, management staff, mental health service providers, tenants, neighborhood associations, and many more. We also conduct fair housing workshops for students in grades K-8. Learn more about The Fair Housing Five and the Haunted House, GNOFHAC’s original children’s book that tells the story of kids who take action in their neighborhood in response to a landlord who is discriminating. It is designed to initiate conversations between parents, caregivers, teachers and children about housing discrimination, systemic inequality, and the important role that we all have in ending both.

     

Our 6th Annual Community Crawfish Boil

Posted on 26. Apr, 2018 by in Blog

Our 6th Annual Community Crawfish Boil was a success! Thank you to everyone who joined us in celebrating Fair Housing Month and the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. We appreciate all of your support! 

 

Posted on 16. Apr, 2018 by in Blog

Did you buy a home in the last 10 years in the Greater New Orleans area?

What do you know about your hazard insurance coverage?

What were you told about the hazards that your new home faces?

If you are over 18 years of age, we would like to hear about your experiences with property and hazard insurance, and your home’s risk disclosures. Please join a one-time discussion group on Saturday, May 12, hosted by The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) and the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP).

Participation DETAILS:

  • 1.5 hour discussion, located nearby
  • You will receive $25 cash for participation
  • Participation is voluntary. You may choose to withdraw or refuse to answer any questions that you are not comfortable with. Your participation will not affect any service you may or can receive from partners or others, such as insurance companies.
  • Your name and shared comments will be kept confidential by project staff.
  • Participation is limited to the first 14 people per session.
  • Only one person per household is eligible to participate.
  • The session will be conducted by staff from the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC, in coordination with the two local organizations—none of whom are affiliated with any builders, insurance company, or public agency.
  • This work is funded by the National Academy of Sciences’ Gulf Research Program, and statements you make during the discussion will be used to develop a survey of other Greater New Orleans residents.

TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT AND RECEIVE DETAILS,
PLEASE CALL 1 (504) 507-9909
or email HomeResilience@urban.org

Fair Housing Month Events

Posted on 02. Apr, 2018 by in Blog, Events

April 3rd: Landlord-Tenant and Fair Housing Laws: Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities (Lafayette, LA)

GNOFHAC will conduct a training on landlord-tenant and fair housing laws from 9:30am-12:30pm at 301 W Congress St. in Lafayette, Louisiana. The training is free and open to the public.

April 5th: GNOFHAC presents at New Orleans City Council Meeting

GNOFHAC is speaking at the opening of Thursday’s Council Meeting at 10am to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act and share our upcoming events and trainings in honor of National Fair Housing Month. 

April 5th: Fair Housing and Gender-Based Violence Training (Monroe, LA)

GNOFHAC is partnering with Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault for a training on fair housing, sexual assault and sexual harassment at the Public Safety Center at 1810 Martin Luther King Blvd. in Monroe from 1-4pm. There is no cost to participate, but please register here.

 

 

 


April 11th: The 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act

VOTE and STAND with Dignity are having a Fair Housing for All Second Line on April 11th at 5pm, beginning at MLK Blvd. and Willow St.

 

 

 

 

 

April 14th: Fair Housing Workshop at LA Queer Conference

GNOFHAC will conduct a Know Your Rights Workshop at the Louisiana Queer Conference. Visit their website for more information or to register.

April 16th: Know Your Housing Rights Training at Tulane University

GNOFHAC is conducting a Know Your Rights Training at the Lavin Bernick Center at Tulane University on April 16th from 4:30-6pm. The training is free and open to the public.

 

 

 

April 19th: Know Your Rights Training at NORAPC

GNOFHAC is conducting a Know Your Housing Rights training with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative, and the New Orleans Regional Aids Planning Council on April 19th from 5-7pm at NORAPC, 2601 Tulane Ave in the 2nd floor conference center. The training is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to Gregory at (504) 821-7334.

 

 

 

April 20th: Know Your Housing Rights and Responsibilities Training (Kenner, LA)

GNOFHAC is conducting a Know Your Housing Rights and Responsibilities Training on April 20th from 9:30-11:30am for tenants and landlords at the Martin Luther King Community Resource Center at 1042 31st St. in Kenner. The training is free and open to the public.

 

 

 

April 25th: 6th Annual Community Crawfish Boil

Join GNOFHAC for our 6th Annual Community Crawfish Boil on April 25th from 5:30-7:30pm. The event is free and open to the public.  

 

 

 

 

 

April 26th: Red Lines and Keep Out Signs: 300 Years of Discrimination, Divestment & Displacement In New Orleans

Join the GNOFHAC for a panel discussion on 300 years of segregation in New Orleans with Dr. Stacy Seicshnaydre, Associate Professor of Law at Tulane Law School, Dr. Robert Collins, Professor of Urban Studies and Public Policy at Dillard University, and Cashauna Hill, Executive Director at GNOFHAC. The panel will be moderated by Maxwell Ciardullo, Director of Policy and Communications at GNOFHAC. The panelists will discuss the findings of their new Data Center report, Rigging the Real Estate Market: Segregation, Inequality, and Disaster Risk, on April 26th from 6-8pm at Propeller Incubator, 4035 Washington Ave.

April 28th: Fair Housing Five and the Haunted House Story Time

Join GNOFHAC staff for a story time reading of our children’s book, Fair Housing Five and the Haunted House, at the Algiers Regional Library on Saturday, April 28th at 2:30pm. The story time is intended for ages 5 and up.

 

 

 

 

April 30th: Fair Housing 101 for Small Landlords

GNOFHAC is conducting a free fair housing training for small landlords on April 30th at Christ Church Cathedral Episcopal at 2919 St. Charles Ave. from 6-7:30pm. The presentation will include case studies and best practices tailored to the needs and experiences of small landlords.There is no cost to attend, but participants must register here.

Open Neighborhoods Project

Posted on 23. Feb, 2018 by in Blog

New Orleans is facing a growing affordability crisis. In a city where wages remain stagnant while rent prices continue to increase, 57% of renters spend at least a third of their income on rent and 31% of renters spend more than half.

The affordability crisis is pushing out the people who make the city special, including our musicians, seniors, and hospitality workers.

If you are a landlord or housing provider committed to preserving the New Orleans we love, join GNOFHAC and the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) to learn more about opportunities to address this growing crisis, and meet fellow landlords committed to keeping New Orleans open to all.

GNOFHAC and HANO will be discussing the Housing Choice Voucher Program and we want to hear your advice on what can make the program work better for landlords. 

There is no commitment required, but please fill out this form if you are interested, and we will get back to you with more information.

Civil Rights Groups File Federal Lawsuit Against Deutsche Bank Over Racial Discrimination in New Orleans and Baton Rouge

Posted on 01. Feb, 2018 by in News

Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC), in partnership with the National Fair Housing Alliance, and 18 other civil rights groups accuse the bank of neglecting foreclosures in communities of color 

WASHINGTON, D.C. and New Orleans, LA — Today, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), GNOFHAC, and 18 fair housing organizations from across the country filed a housing discrimination lawsuit in federal district court in Chicago, IL against Deutsche Bank; Deutsche Bank National Trust; Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas; Ocwen Financial Corp.; and Altisource Portfolio Solutions, Inc. Ocwen and Altisource are the servicer and property management company responsible for maintaining and marketing a large number of Deutsche Bank’s properties.

NFHA is filing this lawsuit on the first day of Black History Month to highlight how neglected bank-owned homes hurt African American communities. The lawsuit alleges that Deutsche Bank purposely failed to maintain its foreclosed bank-owned homes (also known as real estate owned or “REO” properties) in middle- and working-class African-American and Latino neighborhoods in 30 metropolitan areas, while it consistently maintained similar bank-owned homes in white neighborhoods. The data presented in the federal lawsuit, which is supported by substantial photographic evidence, shows a stark pattern of discriminatory conduct by Deutsche Bank/Ocwen/Altisource in the maintenance of foreclosed homes. The negligent maintenance of homes in communities of color resulted in these homes having wildly overgrown grass and weeds, unlocked doors and windows, broken doors and windows, dead animals decaying, and trash and debris left in yards. Deutsche Bank/Ocwen/Altisource are paid and under contract to provide routine maintenance and marketing to these bank-owned homes. This includes regular lawn mowing, securing a home’s windows and doors, covering dryer vent holes and other holes to keep animals and insects from nesting, keeping the property free of debris, trash, branches and weeds, and complying with nuisance abatement ordinances in each city.

View photos of the properties and a map of affected communities at: http://nationalfairhousing.org/community-map/ 


Front/rear view of well-maintained Deutsche Bank property in a white neighborhood in New Orleans (left), contrasted with front/rear of a badly-maintained Deutsche Bank property in an African American neighborhood in New Orleans (right).

The lawsuit is the result of a multi-year investigation undertaken by NFHA and its fair housing agency partners beginning in 2010.  “We chose to first file administrative complaints with HUD against Deutsche Bank, expecting the bank to review our evidence and implement changes to secure, maintain, and market its bank-owned homes in communities of color to the same standard it did in white neighborhoods,” said Shanna L. Smith, President & CEO of NFHA. “However, even after meeting with Deutsche Bank’s legal counsel in April 2015 and sharing photographs illustrating the significant differences in treatment between homes in African American/Latino and white neighborhoods, we saw no improvement,” Smith continued. NFHA also met with representatives from Ocwen and Altisource and shared photographs of problems. No improvements with routine maintenance and marketing issues were identified following those meetings, so NFHA, GNOFHAC, and the 18 other fair housing agencies amended the HUD complaint to add these companies.

The lawsuit points out that Deutsche Bank-owned homes in predominantly white working- and middle-class neighborhoods are far more likely to have the lawns mowed and edged regularly, invasive weeds and vines removed, windows and doors secured or repaired, litter, debris and trash removed, leaves raked, and graffiti erased from the property.  

“Deutsche Bank has shown that it can adequately maintain real estate in the white communities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, so it is only fair that homes in African American communities in those cities are maintained just as well,” said Cashauna Hill, Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. “No one deserves to live next to an unsafe, unsightly structure, especially when its owner controls $1.6 trillion in assets but refuses to do simple maintenance.”

NFHA, GNOFHAC, and the 18 other fair housing agencies collected evidence at each property on over 35 data points that were identified as important to protecting and securing the homes.  Investigators also took and closely reviewed nearly 30,000 photographs of Deutsche Bank-owned homes to document the differences in treatment between communities of color and white neighborhoods.

NFHA and GNOFHAC conducted repeat visits to several Deutsche Bank-owned homes over the course of the investigation. However, investigators found little or no improvement in maintenance and often found the homes in worse condition.

The neglected appearance of Deutsche Bank-owned homes in middle- and working-class neighborhoods of color destroys the homes’ curb appeal for prospective homebuyers and invites vandalism because the homes appear to be abandoned. Additionally, the blight created by Deutsche Bank/Ocwen/Altisource results in a decline in home values for African American and Latino families who live next door or nearby, deepening the racial wealth gap and inequality in America. 

This is not a new problem for Deutsche Bank. In June 2013, Deutsche Bank, as trustee and owner of record of foreclosed homes, settled a lawsuit with the City of Los Angeles for $10 million after it was accused of allowing hundreds of foreclosed properties to fall into slum conditions, leading to the destabilization of whole communities. In the past, Deutsche Bank has taken the position that as a trustee of the loans that resulted in foreclosure, it has no legal obligation to maintain the properties once they come into Deutsche Bank’s possession. And yet, Deutsche Bank agreed to settle the City’s claims and required its preservation maintenance companies to pay most of the $10 million to resolve that case. Under the Fair Housing Act, trustees are clearly liable for discriminatory activity to the same extent as any other owner of property. 

NFHA alleges that Deutsche Bank, Ocwen, and Altisource’s intentional failure to correct their discriminatory treatment in African American and Latino neighborhoods—the same communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis—can only be seen as systemic racism. Smith stated, “The intentional neglect of bank-owned homes in communities of color devalues the property and the lives of the families living in the neighborhoods around them. The health and safety hazards created by these blighted Deutsche Bank-owned homes affect the residents, especially the children, living nearby.” Smith continued, “It is important to note that Deutsche Bank, Ocwen, and Altisource were all paid to secure, maintain, and market these homes. No one is asking for special treatment of these bank-owned homes; we simply ask that these companies provide the same standard of care for all bank-owned homes, regardless of the racial or ethnic composition of the neighborhood in which they are located.”

In 2011, NFHA released the first of three reports documenting poor routine maintenance of foreclosed homes in African American and Latino neighborhoods as compared to foreclosures in white neighborhoods. Many photographs of badly-maintained bank-owned homes were shared. Each report recommended best practices to avoid Fair Housing Act violations. “We truly hoped the release of the reports, which included advice on how to comply with civil rights laws, would change the banks’ behavior,” said Smith. “However, only a few banks reached out for meetings to develop best practices, and Deutsche Bank was not one of them.” The second report was released in 2012 and the last one in 2014. 

The HUD complaint was filed and then amended to add additional cities and new evidence on the following dates: February 26, 2014; April 30, 2014; August 7, 2014; January 22, 2015; August 5, 2016; February 14, 2017; and July 26, 2017.

NFHA and its member agencies are represented by Soule, Bradtke & Lambert and Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC.

Detailed statistics and photographs are available at http://nationalfairhousing.org/community-map/

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status, as well as on the race or national origin of residents of a neighborhood. This law applies to housing and housing-related activities, which include the maintenance, appraisal, listing, marketing, and selling of homes. 

The fair housing organizations joining NFHA in filing the complaint include: 

HOPE Fair Housing Center
245 W. Roosevelt Road #107
West Chicago, IL 60185

Open Communities
614 Lincoln Avenue
Winnetka, IL 60093

South Suburban Housing Center
18220 Harwood Avenue
Homewood, IL 60430

Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia
626 East Broad Street #400
Richmond, VA 23219

Toledo Fair Housing Center
432 North Superior Street
Toledo, OH  43604

Fair Housing Continuum
4760 N US Highway 1, Suite 203
Melbourne, FL 32935

Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center
404 S Jefferson Davis Pkwy 
New Orleans, LA 70119

Denver Metro Fair Housing Center
3280 Downing Street, Suite B 
Denver CO 80205

Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council
759 N Milwaukee Street, Suite 500
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Fair Housing Center of West Michigan
20 Hall Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49507

The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center
505 Riverside Drive 
Dayton, OH 45405

The Housing and Research and Advocacy Center
2728 Euclid Avenue, Suite 200
Cleveland, OH 44115

Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches
1300 W Lantana Road, Suite 200 
Lantana, FL 33462

Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana
615 N Alabama Street, Suite 426
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Central Ohio Fair Housing Association
175 South 3rd Street, Suite 580 
Columbus, OH 43215

Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc.
11501 NW 2nd Avenue 
Miami, FL 33168

Connecticut Fair Housing Center
221 Main Street, 4th Floor
Hartford, CT 06106

North Texas Fair Housing Center
8625 King George Drive, Suite 130 
Dallas TX 75235

Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California
1314 Lincoln Avenue, Suite A
San Rafael, CA 94901

 

The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported, in part, by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

Fair Housing Center Settles Case Against Louisiana State Fire Marshal After Judge Rules he Violated Fair Housing Laws Protecting People with Disabilities

Posted on 17. Oct, 2017 by in Blog, News

New Orleans—Today, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) announced a settlement with the State Fire Marshal to ensure that the agency will no longer discriminate against people with disabilities. The plaintiffs in the case were Oxford House, Inc., a nationwide network of housing for recovering alcoholics and substance abusers; the owners of an Oxford House in Lake Charles; and a former Oxford House resident.

The case alleged that the State Fire Marshal’s refusal to allow seven women recovering from alcohol and substance abuse to live in a single-family home “as a family” constituted illegal housing discrimination. The Fire Marshal had instead sought to treat the home as a commercial rooming and boarding facility and require residents to install expensive upgrades or lose their home. If the Fire Marshal had prevailed, 105 other Oxford Houses in Louisiana would potentially have had to close their doors, causing 700 persons in the process of recovery to become homeless.

In July, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and against the Fire Marshal, finding that the Fire Marshal was obligated under federal anti-discrimination laws to accommodate the Oxford House residents. Federal law requires that reasonable accommodations be made for people with disabilities when necessary to ensure equal housing opportunity. Under the Fair Housing Act, residents of Oxford Houses are considered to be people with disabilities. 

Lori Holtzclaw, regional manager for Oxford Houses in Louisiana and Mississippi said, “As both a manager and a previous Oxford House resident, I know that the support of living together like a family is key to recovery—it’s no surprise the model has shown an 86% success rate in residents remaining sober.” She continued, “There is no reasonable fire safety justification for preventing adults from living together in a single-family home.”

The settlement announced today resolves the remaining issues in the federal lawsuit and ensures that the Office of the State Fire Marshall will put in place a process for reviewing accommodation requests, and–for the purposes of fire safety–treat Oxford Houses like any other single-family home.   

Cashauna Hill, GNOFHAC Executive Director, comments, “Especially in the midst of our state’s opioid epidemic, Oxford Houses are a much-needed resource in our communities. We’re grateful for the residents who moved forward with this case and helped safeguard protections for people with disabilities throughout Louisiana.”

GNOFHAC settled a similar case with the City of Baton Rouge in 2014 after a U.S. District Court ruled that the City should allow Oxford Houses to operate in areas zoned for single-family dwellings. 

Plaintiffs were represented by GNOFHAC attorneys Elizabeth Owen and Peter Theis, John N. Adcock, of the Law Office of John N. Adcock, and by Steven G. Polin of the Law Office of Steven G. Polin.

 

Fair Housing and Emotional Support Animals

Posted on 09. Feb, 2017 by in Blog

Under the federal Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to deny someone housing because they have a disability. The Fair Housing Act also says that everyone has the right to “fully use and enjoy” their home. People with disabilities are entitled to any necessary, reasonable modifications or accommodations they might need in order to fully use and enjoy their home.
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