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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: 

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

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.

Recommended Reading

Posted on 29. Jan, 2018 by in Blog

In honor of January being National Book Month, here is a recommended reading list from GNOFHAC staff: 

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
by Richard Rothstein

Rothstein details the many ways that housing segregation in communities across the United States was created and enforced by government action. The impacts of local, state and federal government policies, like racially explicit zoning laws and homeownership and underwriting policies that subsidized white flight and suburbanization while locking families of color out, continue to be seen in persistent patterns of segregation and the enormous wealth gap between white and black families. It’s essential to understand this often invisible history in order to envision what real housing justice might look like in our communities.

 – Renee Corrigan, Director of Education & Outreach


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City 
by Matthew Desmond

Harvard sociologist, Matthew Desmond, tells the story of eight families struggling to secure housing in the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee. Desmond brilliantly conveys the hardships and struggle of these individuals and families to simply find a decent place to live. He dismantles the popular misconception that evictions are the result of poverty, and instead shows how they are more often the cause of it.

And if you needed another reason to pick up Evicted, President Obama included it as one of the best books he read in 2017.

 – Erica Rawles, Community Engagement Coordinator


Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America
by Beryl Satter

The author writes about her father, Mark J. Satter, an apartment building owner in Chicago in the ’50s. It describes how and why the once Jewish community changed to African-American, by looking at issues of debt peonage, blockbusting, segregation, and discriminatory practices at local and federal levels, and showing how each exploited the African-American community in its own unique and unscrupulous ways.

 – Michelle Morgan, Coordinator of Investigations


Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement
by Angela Davis

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle attests to Angela Davis’ ability to stay current and foundational in the fight for human rights. Davis stays topical as she connects movements on a global and local scale in various talks around the world. Her ability to stay up to date and keep moving seamlessly through intergenerational human rights struggles makes the book an inspiring read. All in all, this book is a reminder of the importance of the work we all do.

 – Raven Crane, Intake Specialist


How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood
by Peter Moskowitz

How to Kill a City is on my reading list for 2018. It’s an important read because it connects the visible and visceral effects of gentrification, like rise in rent and the displacement of people, with intentional policy and economic decisions that are not written in the interest of the people they affect. 

 – Sophie Dulberg, Investigations Fellow




Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law
by Dean Spade

Normal Life is not only a great read, but it’s also the gateway to lots of other great books written by Black and Indigenous Feminist, Trans, and Queer writers, who Spade admits are important and informative to the work he does. This book has urgency, criticism, and reiterates the need to work both inside institutions and outside to dismantle transphobia, racism, sexism, and various other forms of institutional violence.

 – Raven Crane, Intake Specialist


Righteous Lives: Narratives of the New Orleans Civil Rights Movement
by Kim Lacy Rogers

Righteous Lives explores the New Orleans Civil Rights Movement through the accounts of 25 activists, in their own words. It records the history of three generations of Civil Rights leaders and is one of the more thorough tellings of the civil rights struggle in New Orleans.

 – Maxwell Ciardullo, Director of Policy & Communications 



Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It
by Mindy Thompson Fullilove 

Root Shock is the book that made realize that if I cared about public health, I needed to be an urban planner. It uses poignant, first-person interviews and deep public health research to track the disproportionate displacement of African American neighborhoods through the highway building and urban renewal policies of the 1950s-70s. Fullilove catalogues the psychological trauma caused to communities that were uprooted from homes, jobs, extended families, and support networks and makes a compelling case for how we avoid future policies of displacement. 
 – Maxwell Ciardullo, Director of Policy & Communications


The Warmth of Other Suns
by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns is a history of the great migration. It examines the experience of individuals who lived in the Jim Crow South and left, and what they found on the other side. Amongst many other issues, the book explores the causes and effects of residential segregation in northern cities and explains a lot about our modern day human geography, both nationwide and at the city level. 

 – Brad Hellman, Director of Homeownership Protection

Fair Housing and Incarceration: support formerly and currently incarcerated women and girls

Posted on 08. Dec, 2017 by in Blog

VOTE (Voice of the Experienced) is leading a march and rally Dec. 15 for formerly and currently incarcerated women and girls. While women in the U.S. make up only five percent of the world’s female population, they make up almost 30 percent of the worldwide total of incarcerated women. Louisiana has the highest per capita incarceration rate of any state in the U.S., and it ranks number seven in the world for incarcerating women. In the Greater New Orleans area, the rate of incarcerated women has increased by 700 percent since 1984, with black women incarcerated at twice the rate of white women; and in all of the U.S., women are the fastest growing incarcerated population.

The ability to access decent and affordable housing is essential to successful reentry after incarceration. With almost one-third of the nation’s population having some type of criminal record, it is imperative that housing providers and realtors employ fair criminal background check policies to ensure that individuals with criminal backgrounds have access to housing.

People with criminal backgrounds are not a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, but according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, “criminal history-based restrictions on housing opportunities violate the Act if, without justification, their burden falls more often on renters or other housing market participants of one race or national origin over another.”

Since African-American and Latino populations are arrested and incarcerated at disproportionate rates, overly broad criminal background checks by housing providers will have a disparate impact on people of color.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development released guidance on criminal background checks by housing providers in April 2016. The guidance states that background check policies must:

  1. Take into account the nature and severity of an individual’s conviction,
  2. Consider the amount of time that has passed since the criminal conduct occurred, and
  3. Consider the nature, severity, and recency of criminal conduct.

Housing providers cannot:

  1. Have overly broad criminal background checks or blanket bans on people with criminal backgrounds,
  2. Deny housing solely because of an arrest, or
  3. Deny housing based on a conviction without being able to show that the applicant poses a threat to the property or other tenants.

Criminal background screening policies can also be used to disguise race discrimination. An audit GNOFHAC conducted in 2015 showed that white prospective applicants with criminal backgrounds were treated more leniently than equally qualified African American applicants with a similar criminal background 50 percent of the time.

If you think you may have been discriminated against while looking for housing, call us at (877) 445-2100. Help is free and confidential.

To show your support for formerly and currently incarcerated women and girls, join VOTE at the march in New Orleans Dec. 15, and consider donating to raise money to bail women out for the holidays.

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.


Louisiana ranked as the third deadliest state for women

Posted on 13. Oct, 2017 by in Blog

October is domestic violence awareness month and in Louisiana, one of the states with highest rates of female homicide victims, there is an even more urgent need for awareness and action.

In September, the Violence Policy Center released its annual report, “When Men Murder Women: Analysis of 2015 Homicide Data,” ranking Louisiana as the state with the third highest rate of women murdered by men. Although Louisiana dropped from last year’s ranking as the state with the second highest female homicide, the rate of women murdered by men has continued to steadily climb from 1.67 per 100,000 in 2011 to 2.22 per 100,000 in 2015, even as the rate of female homicide victims nationwide has decreased.

The report also shows that black women are disproportionately affected by domestic violence. The rate of black females murdered by males was more than twice as high as the rate of white female victims in 2015; however, there has been a lack of attention on the excessive amounts of violence that black women face: “The disproportionate burden of fatal and nonfatal violence borne by black females has almost always been overshadowed by the toll violence has taken on black males,” the report states.

Domestic violence and housing go hand in hand. Far too often, survivors of domestic violence are forced to make the decision between their safety and their home. Nearly 1 in 3 residents in Louisiana domestic violence shelters reported being there because the actions of their abusers led to their eviction, according to a 2015 Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence survey. Because many shelters are at capacity and have to turn away survivors, evictions are a direct cause of homelessness. According to the 2013 Louisiana Homeless Census, 75 percent of all homeless adults in Louisiana report being victims of domestic violence.

In 2015, GNOFHAC, the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence and partners from across the state succeeded in passing the Louisiana Violence Against Women Act to protect the housing rights of survivors of domestic violence. There are four important provisions:

  1. Survivors cannot be evicted or penalized for calling for emergency assistance. It’s against the law for a housing provider to have a “zero tolerance” policy for police visits in their lease.
  2. Survivors cannot be evicted because of the violence of their abuser. Survivors are often evicted due to the actions of an abuser regardless of whether or not the abuser lived on the property. This act not only protects survivors against court-ordered evictions, but also against other types of evictions, like a notice to vacate or refusal to renew a month-to-month lease.
  3. Survivors cannot be denied housing solely because they have experienced past abuse. Shelters often report that if a survivor lists a domestic violence shelter as a previous residence on a housing application, she has more trouble finding housing. A landlord or leasing agent cannot refuse to provide housing to someone solely because they have experienced domestic violence.
  4. Survivors can terminate a lease early if they need to. Survivors who need to leave their home due to domestic violence must be allowed to do so without forfeiting their security deposit or other penalty.

The Louisiana Violence Against Women Act offers important protections, but many tenants in Louisiana are not aware of these rights. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence at 1-888-411-1333. Help is free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against by a housing provider, or if you have questions about your housing rights, call the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center at 1-877-445-2100.