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Fair Housing Center Files Contempt Motion Against HANO

Posted on 01. Nov, 2007 by in 2007 News, News

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) filed a Motion to Enforce a Consent Decree and for Contempt Sanctions today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New Orleans against the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), now under the receivership of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The motion is in response to HANO’s failure to provide updated contact information for former St. Thomas residents in violation of the June 2007 Consent Decree entered in the case Corner, et al., v. The Housing Authority of New Orleans, et al., Civil Action No. 06-10751.

The Consent Decree provides a preference for former St. Thomas residents at River Garden Apartments, formerly the St. Thomas Public Housing Development. A central provision of the Consent Decree requires HANO/HUD to provide updated contact information for former St. Thomas clients so that HRI/River Garden can locate the former residents and inform them of available housing opportunities at River Garden Apartments.

HANO initially updated the mailing information for only 378 names out of a total of 1132, leaving 754 names remaining without any update. Of the 1132 addresses listed, approximately 38% indicated that the individuals named still resided in the now demolished St. Thomas Housing Development. More than 20% indicated that individuals lived in housing developments that have been closed and vacant for more than two years. After GNOFHAC’s and HRI/River Garden’s subsequent requests for updated information, 605 names remain with no updated contact information. The failure to provide updated contact information is of particular concern since HANO has access to HUD and FEMA databases of evacuees receiving housing assistance.

James Perry, Executive Director of GNOFHAC, states, “HANO’s duty and purpose is to provide housing for indigent New Orleanians. The failure by HANO to provide updated contact information for these residents is a clear abdication of that duty, as well as its obligations under the Consent Decree. HANO’s failure is of grave concern because it calls into question HANO’s claim that it has open units at other developments and that it is unable to fill these units with HANO clients. The failure also frustrates New Orleans’ attempt to conduct an equitable and open rebuilding process inclusive of all New Orleanians.”

11-1-07 Download the press release here 

FHAC Receives $275,000 Enforcement Grant from U.S. Department of HUD to Further Equal Housing Opportunity

Posted on 25. Oct, 2007 by in 2007 News, News

On October 25, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. in the Melrose Room at the Hilton Riverside Hotel, Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Kim Kendrick presented the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) with a grant for the maximum amount allotted under the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP): $275,000. The grant will allow GNOFHAC staff to continue investigating complaints of housing discrimination and enforcing the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, which protects against housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, familial status, and religion.

GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry comments, “The most difficult step in battling housing discrimination is finding funding sources to support the work. HUD’s commitment to partner with us for a second consecutive year allows us the means to continue to confront housing discrimination on a daily basis.”

10-25-07 Download the press release here

FHAC Director Testifies Before US Senate re: SB 1668

Posted on 25. Sep, 2007 by in 2007 News, News

Download GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry’s Senate testimony here.

GNOFHAC Settles HANO/HRI River Garden Lawsuit

Posted on 09. Jul, 2007 by in 2007 News, News

Dasha Corner and the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (“FHAC”), represented by the Tulane Civil Litigation Clinic, announce today that a lawsuit filed in December 2006 in federal court against the Housing Authority of New Orleans and LGD Rental 1, LLC (“HRI/River Garden”), owner of River Garden Apartments, formerly the St. Thomas public housing development, has been resolved by consent decree.

Readers can review the order entered in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by the Honorable Judge Beer by clicking here.  To download a copy of the consent degree, click here.

In their complaint, Ms. Corner and FHAC alleged that HANO and HRI/River Garden breached a valid conciliation agreement (“Enforcement Agreement”) entered in August 2003 under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 when they leased ACC units at the River Garden Apartments in New Orleans to HANO employees and other non-former St. Thomas residents.  Specifically, plaintiffs claimed that such conduct violated the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3601, et seq. and Civ. Code Art. 1994.  HANO and HRI/River Garden denied all of the plaintiffs’ allegations, citing an IRS waiver.

The parties agree that their mutual interests, as well as the interests of former St. Thomas residents and other public housing residents, will be served by working cooperatively to ensure that both the letter and spirit of the negotiated Consent Decree are realized.  The Consent Decree defines the preferences that will govern the River Garden Development for former St. Thomas residents, the rental criteria that will apply to all applicants for public housing units at River Garden, advertising and marketing procedures to govern the development, the application process that will govern the development, appeal policies for applicants who are informed that they are ineligible for a public housing unit at River Garden, and certain document retention and record keeping responsibilities at the development.

The St. Thomas Housing Development was demolished in 2000 under a HUD program known as HOPE VI.  St. Thomas was redeveloped as a mixed income community – River Garden Apartments — by HRI/River Garden.

“It is absolutely critical that qualified former residents of the St. Thomas development – wherever they are — know and understand that they are welcome back home to River Garden,” said James Perry, Executive Director of FHAC.

7-9-07 Download the press release here

Fair Housing Center Opposes Louisiana House Bill 223

Posted on 14. May, 2007 by in 2007 News, News

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) strongly opposes House Bill 223. If passed, the Bill’s effect would be to limit affordable rental housing opportunities across Louisiana. The Bill has the potential to stymie attempts to provide housing opportunities for people with disabilities, the elderly and minorities.

GNOFHAC calls on all citizens and advocates to contact Louisiana legislators and state their opposition to the Bill. Specifically, the Bill yields to the “not in my backyard” sentiment previously expressed by the Jefferson Parish council and requires the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency to obtain parish governing body approval prior to approving applications for low-income housing tax credits or other “housing programs.”

There are five major arguments against the Bill:

1. Limits the construction of affordable housing: Passage of HB 223 will make it even more difficult for developers to utilize the low-income housing tax credit program in constructing multi-family housing developments. If developers shy away from the program, the result will be a net loss in affordable housing production for the State.

2. Limits housing for people with disabilities and minorities: Research indicates that people with disabilities and minorities rely disproportionately on low-income tax credit housing. As such, any effort to limit tax credit housing will limit housing opportunities for people with disabilities and minorities. Thus, the consequences of HB 223 are a likely violation of the Fair Housing Act as it will likely have a disparate discriminatory effect on protected class members like people with disabilities, African-Americans, and Latinos.

3. Endangers federal funding: The Bill has the potential to endanger federal funding for Louisiana. Under the requirements of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program being used by State officials to fund the Road Home and most other Rebuilding Programs, the State must affirmatively further fair housing in all its actions. A Bill that would limit housing opportunities for people with disabilities and minorities would indicate a failure to meet the affirmatively further requirement and possibly cause the state to lose some or all of its CDBG funding.

4. Sends a bad message nationally: The Bill sends a bad message to Congress and the rest of the United States. In Louisiana’s time of need and under the leadership of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation, Congress awarded a record number of low income tax credits to Louisiana to stimulate the replacement of the affordable housing stock destroyed in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Passage of HB 223 limiting the use of the tax credits would communicate to Congress and the Nation that Louisiana is playing games with rebuilding funds and failing to take the aid American tax-payers have chosen to provide.

5. The Bill is duplicative: The Bill is duplicative in nature. Builders are already required to get city/parish approval through the basic permitting process that exists in every city and parish. Without this approval, builders can’t begin construction on any project. As such, city and parish governments already have input in the process.

GNOFHAC calls on citizens to act quickly and aggressively, by informing Representative Toomy and the members of the Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee (the Committee charged with considering the Bill) that HB 223 must be terminated. Here is a list of actions advocates can take:

1. Contact the author of HB 223: Call or send a letter or email to Representative Toomy, the author of HB 223 (a sample letter can be located at this link): larep085@legis.state.la.us, (504)361-6013, (504)361-6687 (Fax), P. O. Box 157, Gretna, LA 70054.

2. Contact the Committee Considering HB 223: Call or send a letter or email to the members of the Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee. A sample letter can be located at this link and the contact information for each of the members of the Committee can be located at this link.

3. Testify against HB 223: Testify in opposition to the Bill at the Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee hearing. Contact Committee Staff to arrange testimony (Valerie Banks, 225-342-2401 or banksv@legis.state.la.us).

5-14-07 Download the press release here

Audit Report Reveals Race Discrimination in New Orleans Rental Housing

Posted on 24. Apr, 2007 by in 2007 News, News

On Tuesday, April 24, 2007, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) revealed the results of its recent investigation into race based rental discrimination in the New Orleans area, including Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, and St. Tammany Parishes.  The investigation showed that 57.5% of landlords discriminated against African American testers searching for rental housing.

GNOFHAC conducted the investigation through the use of fair housing testing; a process whereby equally suited black and white testers attempt to apply for housing. GNOFHAC compared and contrasted tester experiences to determine whether or not discrimination occurred.

Testers encountered discrimination in various forms.  For example, black testers were told apartments were not available when their white counterparts were told the same units were available; landlords provided black testers with less favorable terms and conditions for the rental of properties than their white counterparts; and in several instances, black testers did not receive promised return phone calls while the same landlords returned all calls of their white counterparts.

GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry comments “We are disappointed to find such a high rate of discrimination  in this investigation.  However, the Fair Housing Action Center hopes that the study will  inform housing consumers of their rights under fair housing laws.  Equal access to housing is a civil right and an essential component in the rebuilding process.  Housing providers should be aware that the Fair Housing Action Center will pursue enforcement of all violations covered by applicable fair housing laws.”

4-24-07 Download “For Rent, Unless You’re Black” here

FHAC Celebrates 39th Anniversary of Fair Housing Act

Posted on 17. Apr, 2007 by in 2007 News, News

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center encourages members of the public and housing industry professionals to attend either of the following events to increase knowledge about housing rights:

  • Know Your Housing Rights Training: It’s difficult to obtain housing in post-Katrina New Orleans. It’s a lot easier though, if you are informed of your rights. At the Know Your Housing Rights Training, housing experts will explain various aspects of housing law crucial to navigating the post-Katrina housing market: tenants’ rights, housing discrimination law, predatory lending and disability rights.

April 21, 2007, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., 1215 Prytania Street, New Orleans, LA. Free to the public. Call 504-596-2100 to register.

  • Baton Rouge Fair Housing Summit: Held in partnership with the Urban Restoration Enhancement Corporation, this day long event, geared towards housing advocates and housing professionals, will cover advanced topics in fair housing. The event will feature addresses from Shanna Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, and James H. Johnson, Director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center. Log on to gnofairhousing.org for a detailed description of the event.

April 26, 2007, 7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., River Center, 275 South River Road, Baton Rouge, LA.

GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry remarks, “ We are excited about the series of events scheduled for Fair Housing Month. It provides a great opportunity for citizens across Southern Louisiana to learn about the laws that allow us to work towards equal housing opportunity for all Louisianans.”

The federal Fair Housing Act was passed on April 11, 1968, seven days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King and other civil rights leaders advocated for passage of the law for years, but it was only after King’s death and at the urging of President Lyndon B. Johnson that Congress enacted the law. The current version of the law provides that it is illegal to discriminate against people seeking housing based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and/or familial status.

4-17-07 Download the press release here

FHAC Director Testifies Before Congress re: Post Katrina Discrimination

Posted on 06. Feb, 2007 by in 2007 News, News

On February 6, 2007 , James Perry, Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) will testified before the House Committee on Financial Services in Washington, D.C. The subject of his testimony was the nature of housing discrimination on the Gulf Coast post-Katrina and the affordable housing shortage that the city of New Orleans is currently facing.

Specifically, Perry addressed:

  • Discriminatory zoning practices recently enacted by local governments in the Greater New Orleans area. For example, Perry spoke about the status of GNOFHAC’s recent case against St. Bernard Parish for its blood relative ordinance.
  • The actions of the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) and the United States Department of Housing And Urban Development (HUD) regarding the proposed demolition of over 5,000 units of available affordable housing in New Orleans.
  • The role of people with disabilities in the rebuilding process and the importance of accessibility to an equitable rebuilding process.
  • The significance of recent judicial decisions about discriminatory internet advertising cases.

Perry also made several recommendations to the Committee on what role the federal government can play in addressing these issues. A draft of Perry’s testimony will be published on www.gnofairhousing.org.

Perry remarked “Our organization has a unique perspective on the difficulties citizens face as they try to rebuild their lives after last year’s hurricanes and I appreciate the opportunity to testify about these challenges in front of people who have the power to remediate them.”

2-6-07 Download the press release here

GNOFHAC Holds Housing Accessibility Training

Posted on 03. Jan, 2007 by in 2007 News, News

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) presents a free one-day Housing Accessibility training program. The event, slated for January 17, 2007, will take place at the Ashe Cultural Art Center (1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.) in New Orleans from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Attending architects will receive up to six continuing education credits. The event’s purpose is to ensure that architects, homebuilders, designers, developers and housing advocates are up to speed with laws affecting people with disabilities. The information is essential as Louisianans rebuild in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Those interested in attending should go to www.fairhousingfirst.org/register.asp?id=119 to register.

The training program will focus on three modules: disability rights laws and standards, design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act and common design and construction violations & solutions. The event is held in partnership with the New Orleans Chapter of American Institute of Architects and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Department. Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST  (http://www.fairhousingfirst.org) is an initiative of HUD that provides training and technical guidance to homebuilders, developers, architects and designers on compliance with the accessible design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The campaign includes training for the housing industry, a Web site, www.fairhousingfirst.org, a hotline telephone number (1-888-FH1RST1 or TTY/V 1-888-341-7781), and a technical guidance resource center.

1-3-07 Download the press release here