In monumental housing decision, Supreme Court rules towns must account for 'gap period,’ with exceptions

In a major decision that will alter the housing landscape in New Jersey, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that towns, with some exceptions, must account for the 16-year period when there was a dearth of affordable housing.

The ruling will force towns to zone for thousands of additional affordable units statewide. The exact numbers will be hashed out in settlements and lower courts across New Jersey.

Mansfield Housing Authority case reaches settlement

September 30, 2016
The Mansfield Housing Authority (MHA) has reached a settlement of $180,000 for allegations of discrimination based on race. The settlement was announced by the Connecticut Fair Housing Center on Aug. 30.
     The case was brought forth by the Connecticut Fair Housing Center on behalf of Equalla Jenkins, who was denied access to a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher by the MHA in 2014. Although she was eligible for the program according to both state and federal law, she was refused access. The Housing Choice Voucher program is a federal program that is designed to assist low income families to afford housing in the private sector.
     According to federal law, housing authorities such as the MHA receive federal funds on the condition that they be used for the voucher program. The Mansfield Housing Authority in particular is responsible for implementing this program in the towns of Mansfield, Ashford, Coventry, Willington and Chaplin.
     Jenkins, who is African American, had made it through the initial stages of the application for the voucher program, but was ultimately denied due to policies of the MHA.
     Particularly, the housing authority had speculated that she would be unable to maintain her job in Middletown from the Mansfield area. Although Jenkins had made plans for getting to work, the MHA had required her to provide proof that she had a car.

Study: Whites treated better by Battle Creek real estate agents

September 30, 2016
White prospective homeowners received better treatment and service from Battle Creek real estate agents than their black counterparts who were "better-qualified consumers," according to a fair housing investigation conducted last fiscal year.
     The findings, released Thursday at a news conference held at Battle Creek City Hall, reported that among 38 tests, white subjects were offered more listings, received better communication and had fewer discussions on pre-approval requirements. That's despite black test subjects being assigned characteristics that would give them an advantage, such as better financial situations.
     "While we're drawing attention to a problem — and I don't want to shy away from the fact that it's a problem in Battle Creek — I do want to say that we're not just here to talk because there's a problem," said Chris Lussier, the city's community development manager. "We're also here because we have a community that does want to take it on, head on, and address it."

Talk focuses on ways to keep Columbia's ideal of fair housing alive

September 29, 2016
Sustaining racial integration in housing requires constant stewardship, even in a planned community built on diversity.
     That's the theme of a talk being given Tuesday by the head of an Illinois fair-housing organization to Howard County leaders and residents who seek to preserve Columbia's legacy of inclusiveness.
     Rob Breymaier, executive director of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, will also offer insight into the operations of the nonprofit, which has a 44-year history of maintaining racial integration in communities west of Chicago.
     "There is caring and concern in Columbia about remaining true to its core values," said Breymaier, who has headed the nonprofit for 10 years. "'What do we need to put in place to keep the dream alive?' That's the question people want answered."

Decades-Old Housing Discrimination Case Plagues Donald Trump

September 28, 2016
During the presidential debate on Monday night, Hillary Clinton raised a 1973 federal lawsuit brought against Donald Trump and his company for alleged racial discrimination at Trump housing developments in New York.
     The Justice Department sued Donald Trump, his father, Fred, and Trump Management in order to obtain a settlement in which Trump and his father would promise not to discriminate. The case eventually was settled two years later after Trump tried to countersue the Justice Department for $100 million for making false statements. Those allegations were dismissed by the court.

HUD Fair Housing Rule Grants: Not Everybody Wants Some

September 28, 2016
In July 2015, HUD published the finalized Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule in the Federal Register with the goal of providing participants in HUD programs with clear guidelines and data they need to achieve the goals outlined in the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
     While the final rule was widely praised and viewed as a great achievement for the Obama Administration, not everyone is excited about it. Four communities have recently decided that they no longer want to receive HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funds associated with the AFFH Rule: Castle Rock, Colorado; Douglas County, Colorado; Sedgwick County, Kansas; and Wayne Township, New Jersey, which announced on September 7 that it would not accept the funds.

Fair housing case heads to New Jersey Supreme Court

September 09, 2016
The New Jersey Supreme Court has decided to hear more arguments over affordable housing.
     The court on Thursday announced it is allowing the Fair Share Housing Center to challenge an appellate court ruling which told towns they did not need to meet low- and moderate-income home obligations between 1999 and 2015 because the state's Affordable Housing Council couldn't agree on requirements.
     The Supreme Court says the towns should not yet disregard their requirements and the justices scheduled arguments for November.

What Texas Ruling Means for Fair Housing

September 09, 2016
Fair housing advocates scored a major victory in 2015 when the Supreme Court upheld the so-called “disparate impact” standard, a legal theory that says individuals can allege housing discrimination under the federal Fair Housing Act without having to prove that someone intentionally sought to discriminate. The Inclusive Communities Project (ICP), a Dallas-based nonprofit, had argued in court that the Texas Department of Housing awarded its low-income housing tax credits in a way that perpetuated segregation, concentrating affordable housing in black neighborhoods with high poverty.

Federal government to make decision on San Francisco 'neighborhood preferences'

September 08, 2016
San Francisco officials should find out on Friday whether their plan to help maintain diversity in the city will be approved by the federal government.
     The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had rejected so-called neighborhood preferences.
     Subsidized housing is set to open in the fall. You would not believe how many people have applied, but the mayor, city attorney and supervisors believe that those who already live somewhere in the neighborhood and want to move here should get preferential treatment.
     Roxanne Trade is hoping to be selected for an apartment in Willie B. Kennedy Place, a brand new 98-unit affordable housing complex built by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation.
     "We've received over 5,000 applications in less than three weeks, so overwhelming, overwhelming," Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp. spokesperson Cynthia Alvarez said.

John Marshall Fair Housing Law Conference to honor Bill Caruso

September 08, 2016
The John Marshall Law School will honor fair housing law pioneer F. Willis "Bill" Caruso tonight at a dinner in his honor.
     Caruso, who retired from John Marshall in January, has been a force in fair housing for nearly 50 years. He was a clinical professor of law and co-executive director of The John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic from 1994 to 2015. Prior to joining John Marshall, Caruso was the general counsel of the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities and the general counsel for the Chicago Housing Authority. He has litigated over a thousand fair housing cases including the US Supreme Court cases The Village of Arlington Heights v Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. and Gladstone Realtors v Village of Bellwood. He also has written numerous articles and a textbook on fair housing and lending. In addition to his work in fair housing, Caruso has provided pro bono services in thousands of cases. In 2013, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Chicago Chapter of the Federal Bar Association honored him with its Excellence in Public Interest Service award. Earlier this year the National Fair Housing Alliance at its annual national conference honored Caruso for his work.

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