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Fair Housing Center Files Suit Over Sexual Harassment In Housing

Posted on 02. Dec, 2011 by in 2011 News, Enforcement News, News

On December 2, 2011, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) and bona fide complainant “Jane Doe” filed suit against Ore Duckworth, a landlord in New Orleans, LA for discrimination on the basis of sex, including severe, pervasive and unwelcome sexual harassment, battery and assault.  The lawsuit stems from multiple incidents that occurred between December 2008-January 2010 in which Mr. Duckworth subjected Ms. Doe to unwanted verbal sexual advances, unwanted physical sexual advances, and conditioned the terms of Ms. Doe’s tenancy on her submission to his sexual advances. Read More…

Fair Housing Center Files Suit Against Landlord Over Discrimination Against Latino Renters

Posted on 11. Nov, 2011 by in 2011 News, Enforcement News, News

On November 11, 2011, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) filed suit against Maureen Dowty, a landlord in Mandeville, Louisiana, for discrimination in the rental of housing on the basis of race and national origin. The lawsuit stems from tests conducted by GNOFHAC. During these tests, Dowty told GNOFHAC’s Latino tester that the rental home was no longer available within hours of telling white testers that the rental was available immediately. Read More…

Federal Judge Grants Fair Housing Center’s Motion To Hold St. Bernard Parish In Contempt

Posted on 19. Oct, 2011 by in 2011 News, Enforcement News, News, St. Bernard Parish

On October 17, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana issued an order holding St. Bernard Parish and the Parish Council in contempt for violating the terms of a 2008 Consent Order, which among other things enjoins them from violating the Fair Housing Act. Plaintiffs GNOFHAC and Provident Realty Advisors, Inc. filed a motion to enforce the Consent Order and hold St. Bernard Parish in contempt in January 2011, after St. Bernard Parish refused to renew Provident’s building permits for the development of four mixed-income housing developments. Seventy percent of the units will be affordable to low- and moderate-income households.

The Parish asserted that that it could not renew Provident’s building permits because of an amendment to the Parish’s Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO), which no longer permitted multi-unit dwellings on the four sites where Provident is building affordable housing developments in the Parish. Although the Parish subsequently renewed Provident’s building permits in February 2011, it then sought to stop construction on the four sites by issuing cease and desist orders, claiming that Provident’s renewed building permits were invalid, based on the 2010 zoning amendment.

Following briefing and an evidentiary hearing, the District Court held that the specific sequence of events leading up to the CZO presents ample evidence of intentional discrimination. When the previous ordinances were challenged, Defendants reverted to alternative legal strategies such as a referendum and a new CZO. The Court furthermore held that the CZO has a discriminatory effect on African-Americans and violates the Fair Housing Act.

Racial discrimination has been a clear and consistent theme throughout the course of GNOFHAC’s multi-year litigation against St. Bernard Parish, during which St. Bernard Parish and the Parish Council have repeatedly been held in contempt for violating the 2008 Consent Order.

GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry comments, “Judge Berrigan’s order of contempt is a major victory in the long struggle we’ve engaged in to eliminate illegal racial discrimination in housing in St. Bernard Parish. We remain committed to making sure that anyone, regardless of race, can live in St. Bernard Parish if they so choose.”

Relman, Dane, and Colfax PLLC represented GNOFHAC in this matter.

Click here for a copy of Judge Berrigan’s latest order in its entirety.

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) is a private nonprofit organization. GNOFHAC is dedicated to eliminating housing discrimination and furthering equal housing opportunities through education, outreach, advocacy, and enforcement of fair housing laws across the metro New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas. The activities described in this release were privately funded.

Landlord Agrees to Pay $ 70,000 to Settle Race Discrimination Lawsuit

Posted on 30. Aug, 2011 by in 2011 News, Enforcement News, News

New Orleans landlords Betty Bouchon, the Bouchon Limited Family Partnership and Sapphire Corp., have agreed to pay $70,000 in damages and civil penalties to settle a lawsuit alleging they unlawfully denied housing to African-American prospective renters at a 16-unit apartment building located in New Orleans.

In December 2010, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center(GNOFHAC) filed suit against the Bouchon Family Limited Partnership and Betty Bouchon after receiving two unrelated complaints of discrimination by housing consumers. Both complained that the Bouchons were using race to discriminate against renters at a housing complex located at 4905 and 4919 Canal Street in New Orleans. Over the course of more than a year, GNOFHAC tested the property for discrimination by sending mystery shoppers to attempt to rent units at the complex. During the process, the mystery shoppers documented discrimination by Ms. Bouchon, who failed to return phone calls from African-American testers while returning phone calls from white testers, made statements to white testers indicating that she would not rent to African-Americans, and falsely told an African-American tester that an apartment was not available for rent when in fact it was available. Listen to recordings of statements made by Ms. Bouchon at www.gnofairhousing.org.

The Louisiana Department of Justice found that there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination took place. The United Stated Department of Justice settlement will resolve the litigation alleging that the defendants discriminated against African- Americans seeking housing at the apartment building in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, based on GNOFHAC’s testing evidence.

Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants will pay $50,000 to GNOFHAC and a total of $20,000 in civil penalties to the United States. The settlement also requires the defendants to adopt non-discriminatory policies and procedures, keep detailed records of inquiries from prospective tenants and of rental transactions, and submit periodic reports over the four-year term of the settlement.

GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry said, “Racial discrimination in housing is illegal and unacceptable. The terms of this settlement will help to prevent the ongoing occurrence of housing discrimination and we are pleased with it. GNOFHAC will continue to produce high quality testing evidence to ensure equal housing opportunity throughout the New Orleans area.”

Listen to recordings of statements made by Ms. Bouchon here and here.

8-29-11 Read the Consent Order here

8-29-11 Read the Dept. Of Justice Release here or download

8-30-11 Read the City Business article here or download

8-30-11 Read the NOLA.COM article here or download

State Amends Problematic Hurricane Relief Program

Posted on 07. Jul, 2011 by in 2011 News, Enforcement News, News, Road Home

CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS SETTLE HURRICANE KATRINA HOUSING DISCRIMINATION CASE AGAINST HUD AND LOUISIANA – STATE AMENDS PROBLEMATIC HURRICANE RELIEF PROGRAM

Today, African-American homeowners and two civil rights organizations announced a settlement in a post-Hurricane Katrina housing discrimination lawsuit brought against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the State of Louisiana regarding the “Road Home” program.

The suit alleged that the formula used to allocate grants to homeowners through the Road Home program – the single largest housing recovery program in U.S. history – had a discriminatory impact on thousands of African-American homeowners.  Road Home program data show that African-Americans were more likely than whites to have their Road Home grants based upon the much lower pre-storm market value of their homes, rather than the estimated cost to repair damage.

For example, one African-American plaintiff whose rebuilding grant was based upon pre-storm value received a $1,400 grant from the State to rebuild her home; but she would have received a grant of $150,000 had her rebuilding grant been based on the estimated cost of damage to the home.  These types of shortfalls played a key role in slowing down the recovery effort.  Under the terms of the settlement, HUD and the State of Louisiana will direct additional funds to individuals in heavily-affected parishes whose grants were based upon pre-storm value.

Read the Road Home Settlement Fact Sheet and take an eligibility quiz here

7-6-11 Read the full press release and terms of the settlement here

7-6-11 Read the nola.com article “Road Home Settlement Will Benefit Nearly 1,500 Homeowners” here

7-6-11 Read the Washington Post article “HUD to Pay $62 Million to LA Homeowners to Settle Road Home Lawsuit” here.

7-6-11 Read the WWL article “HUD Announces New Road Home Funds Available” here .

7-6-11 Read the AP article “HUD Settles Suit Over Road Home Program” here

7-6-11 Read the City Business article “Road Home Settlement Leaves Some Without Closure” here

7-6-11 Read the article on BlackAmericaWeb.com “Road Home Suit Results in $60 Million Settlement” here

7-8-11 Read the Louisiana Record article “HUD Settles with Hundreds of LA Homeowners in Road Home Dispute” here.

7-7-11 Read the BET article “Hud Reaches $62 Million Settlement with Louisiana Homeowners” here.

7-9-11 Read the nola.com editorial “Road Home Finally Gets Shorter for Some Recipients” here.

7-6-11 Read Congressman Cedric Richmond’s statement here

7-11-11 Read the New York Times editorial “Fairer Treatment for Hurricane Katrina’s Victims” here

7-22-11 Read the Times Picayune editorial “Leave No Road Home Homeowner Behind” here.

St. Bernard Parish Issues Building Permits

Posted on 06. Jul, 2011 by in 2011 News, News, St. Bernard Parish

After defying a federal judge’s order for more than two weeks and garnering $40,000 in fines, St. Bernard Parish today issued building permits for three of four contentious mixed-income apartment construction sites in Chalmette.

7-6-11 Read the nola.com article “St. Bernard Parish Issues Contentious Apartment Building Permits” here

7-8-11 Read the nola.com editorial “St. Bernard Parish officials get a wake-up call on housing” here

7-10-11 Read Jarvis DeBerry’s editorial “Affordable Housing Proposals Don’t Have to be Divisive” here

Judge Partially Grants Another Motion for Contempt Against St. Bernard Parish

Posted on 30. Jun, 2011 by in 2011 News, Enforcement News, News, St. Bernard Parish

On June 30, 2011, the Honorable Judge Helen Berrigan issued an order, partially granting the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center’s (GNOFHAC) latest emergency motion for contempt against St. Bernard Parish. The order also requires the Parish to issue permits for Provident Realty Advisors’ sites Woodlands, Parc Place, and Magnolia by 3pm on July 1st, among other provisions.

6-30-11 Read the full press release here

6-30-11 Read the Judge’s order here

7-1-11 Read the WDSU article “Judge Orders Permits, Power for St. Bernard Apartment Complex” here or download

6-30-11 Read the nola.com article “Federal Judge Holds St. Bernard Parish in Contempt” here or download

Fair Housing Center Files Another Motion for Contempt Against St. Bernard Parish

Posted on 22. Jun, 2011 by in 2011 News, Enforcement News, News, St. Bernard Parish

On June 22, 2011, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) filed an emergency motion for contempt against St. Bernard Parish. The motion “requests that the Court issue an immediate order enforcing its June 20, 2011 Order; ordering Defendants to immediately provide water taps and authorize the release of electricity; holding Defendants in contempt; and imposing appropriate damages, fines, coercive sanctions, and fees and costs.”

6-23-11 Read the full press release here.

6-22-11 Read GNOFHAC’s motion here.

6-22-11 Read GNOFHAC’s memorandum here.

6-22-11 Read the WDSU article “Legal battle heats up over Chalmette housing project” here or http://www.gnofairhousing.org/pdfs/articles/6-22-11_wdsu_Legal_Battle_Heats_Up.pdf“>download.

Federal Judge Grants Relief In Part, Requires Parish to Provide Essential Utilities to Developer

Posted on 20. Jun, 2011 by in 2011 News, Enforcement News, News, St. Bernard Parish

On June 20, 2011, Federal Judge Helen Berrigan issued an order partially granting the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center’s (GNOFHAC) and Provident Realty Advisors latest motion to hold St. Bernard Parish in contempt of court.  The order requires St. Bernard Parish to allow Entergy to release electricity to developer Provident Realty Advisors’ sites, and ordered defendant St. Bernard Parish to provide water taps to the four development sites in question.  In the order, Judge Berrigan cited the need for electricity at the sites in order to make it possible for Provident to provide adequate security in the face of recent acts of racist graffiti. Judge Berrigan also noted the need for water on site for safety reasons. Finally, in the order Judge Berrigan calls on expert Dr. Anthony Lamanna to provide additional assistance to the court in making decisions still unresolved regarding the Parish’s claims about on site construction issues.

6-21-11 Read the full press release http://www.gnofairhousing.org/pdfs/06-21-11_SBP_Release.pdf“>here.

6-21-11 Read the Judge’s Order http://www.gnofairhousing.org/pdfs/06-21-11-SBP_Order_re_Motion_to_Enforce.pdf“>here.

6-21-11 Listen to the Provident voicemail http://www.gnofairhousing.org/audio/Provident_Voicemail.mp3” target=”_blank”>here.

6-21-11 View an image of the graffiti on Provident’s building http://www.gnofairhousing.org/images/Provident_Graffiti.jpg” target=”_blank”>here.

6-21-11 Read the nola.com article “Federal judge orders electricity and water at site of controversial… apartments” here or http://www.gnofairhousing.org/pdfs/articles/6-21-11_TP_Federal_judge_orders_electricity.pdf“>download

Judge Grants Temporary Restraining Order in Baton Rouge Disability Discrimination Case

Posted on 10. Jun, 2011 by in 2011 News, Enforcement News, News

On June 10, 2011, the Honorable Judge James Brady, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Louisiana, issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the City of Baton Rouge from enforcing its “two (2) unrelated persons residing in an A-I zone” rule against two Oxford House, Inc. homes.  Additionally, until a hearing is held, the City of Baton Rouge is enjoined from enforcing the provisions of its “Special Home” ordinance against these homes, “as it pertains to the granting of reasonable accommodation to only those housing providers for the disabled that are licensed by the Louisiana and provide 24-hour staffing.”

The TRO was filed in conjunction with a federal lawsuit, which alleges that the City of Baton Rouge, through its selective zoning code enforcement and flawed reasonable accommodations procedure, has violated the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act by engaging in discrimination against people with disabilities.  The TRO was necessary because the City of Baton Rouge refused to stay its enforcement in a state court proceeding scheduled for June 13th that endangered the housing of Oxford House residents.  Oxford House homes are operated throughout the country for persons with disabilities recovering from alcoholism and substance abuse.

6-12-11 Read the full press release here.

6-10-11 Read the Order granting the TRO here.