FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, September 22, 2006  

CONTACT: James Perry - jperry@gnofairhousing.org, 504.596.2100             

FAIR HOUSING CENTER CALLS ON ST. BERNARD PARISH TO REPEAL DISCRIMINATORY ORDINANCE; ORDINANCE MAY BAN NON-WHITE RENTERS

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) calls on St. Bernard Parish to repeal a discriminatory ordinance recently passed by the Parish Council.  According to the St. Bernard Parish website, “Except with a special permit, owners who weren’t previously renting out a single-family residence in R-1 zones will now be prohibited from doing so unless the renter is a blood relative…” www.sbpg.net/sep2006.html.

The ordinance’s blood relative requirement will prevent St. Bernard homeowners with covered residences from renting to any person not of the owner’s own race and national origin.  The most recent estimates from United States Census Data indicate that whites own nearly 93% of St. Bernard Parish owner-occupied housing.  As a result, in most circumstances, only whites would be able to rent most single-family housing in the Parish.

The Fair Housing Act, as amended (The Act), expressly prohibits discrimination in the rental or sale of a dwelling on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, disability or national origin.  42 U.S.C. § 3604 (a).  The Act has been interpreted to prohibit municipalities from using their zoning powers in a manner that excludes housing for a group of people on the basis of one of the enumerated classifications.  The Act is violated even when seemingly neutral zoning policies have a discriminatory effect on a particular protected class and cause harm to a community through the perpetuation of segregation.  As such, the Ordinance is likely illegal discrimination.

James Perry, GNOFHAC Executive Director comments, “Post-Katrina, citizens have partnered like never before, opening their hearts and homes to strangers.  However, the St. Bernard Parish Council has taken action to shut St. Bernard’s door to just about anyone who isn’t white.  We call on the Parish to reverse the ordinance immediately and ask any resident, homeowner, landlord or renter harmed by the Council’s actions to contact our office immediately.”

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What is the Fair Housing Action Center, Inc.?

The Fair Housing Action Center, Inc., or FHAC, was established in August 1995 with help from the National Fair Housing Alliance and a grant from U.S. HUD. FHAC is a private, non-profit organization that will work to further the goal of fair housing and open neighborhoods in the greater New Orleans area.