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Off-site news items.

Sexual orientation and gender identity added to county fair housing ordinance

June 20, 2016
Under protest, the Howard County Commissioners unanimously adopted an amendment to the county’s fair housing ordinance which modifies the definition of family to include “sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of its members.”
     The amendment was undertaken by the county in order to comply with the requirements of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which was necessary in order to acquire three grants it has in process. These include about $300,000 in funding through the North Central Indiana Regional Planning Council, a CDBG planning grant where Howard County is the lead applicant for the town of Russiaville, and a blight elimination grant through the IHCDA.
     The commissioners cited an issue with the language of the ordinance for being a reason they adopted the amendment “under protest.”

Hartville condo developers settle Fair Housing complaint

June 16, 2016
A Hartville, Ohio, developer and Minerva architect have agreed to pay $160,000 to resolve allegations that they violated the Fair Housing Act related to the design and construction of two condominium complexes in Hartville, according to the Justice Department.
     Hartville-based developer Dean Windham and architect Milton Studer of Minerva reached the settlement with the Justice Department. The lawsuit accused Studer and Windham of building two neighboring condo complexes "with a variety of features that made them inaccessible to persons with disabilities," according to a news release issued Thursday by the Justice Department.
     Both complexes are on Laurencrest Street SW. The defendants have denied the allegations in the complaint, according to the consent order filed in U.S. District Court in Akron. Judge John R. Adams was assigned to the case.

Accessibility upgrades coming to Windcliff Apartments after settlement

June 05, 2016
Residents of Windcliff Apartments off Limestone Parkway in Gainesville might be surprised to learn the U.S. Department of Justice recently reached a settlement with the complex’s property owners in a housing discrimination lawsuit.
     It is one of 71 properties across Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee involved in the lawsuit.
     It is unclear how the alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act came to light, said Amy Montgomery, president of Gateway Construction Company based in Florence, Ala. But the DOJ filed the suit against Allan Rappuhn, chief executive officer of the Gateway Companies, which includes Windcliff Apartments, LLC.
     Montgomery said no known tenants had been involved in the litigation.

Detroit Lakes landlord hit with $44,000 fine for discriminating against mentally disabled

June 05, 2016
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that a HUD administrative law judge ruled against a northern Minnesota landlord charged with refusing to rent an apartment to prospective tenants because of their disabilities. Landlord Deane Woodard of Detroit Lakes was ordered to pay $27,000 to one woman, a $16,000 civil penalty, and $1,000 in other court sanctions.
     The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of a dwelling on the basis of disability. Housing providers may not refuse to rent to persons with disabilities.

As HUD complaint lingers, Whitehall zoning change would make way for affordable housing

May 30, 2016
n the shadow of a fair housing discrimination complaint, Whitehall Township is poised to expand affordable housing options, a move housing advocates say will make for a healthier community.
     A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that widened the potential prospects of fair housing discrimination and new directions from the federal government have Lehigh Valley Planning Commission leaders encouraging municipalities to examine zoning codes to guard against unintentionally screening out protected classes. And while the LVPC praised Whitehall's newest zoning change, it appears the township's motivation for the amendment has a more specific aim.

Justice department settles housing discrimination lawsuit against owners of Carson City, Nevada, rental properties

May 27, 2016
WASHINGTON – (RealEstateRama) — The Justice Department announced today that Carson City, Nevada, rental property owners Betty Brinson and Hughston Brinson have agreed to pay $36,000 to resolve allegations that they discriminated against families with children in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
     The lawsuit alleged that the Brinsons discriminated against families with children by placing a series of advertisements for a single-family rental home in the local newspaper that indicated a preference for adult tenants and refusing to rent the home to a family with three children because they did not want children living at the property.
     The complaint also alleged that Betty Brinson placed discriminatory advertisements for another property she owns – a 36-unit apartment complex in Carson City – that indicated a preference for adult tenants. The lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by the family, who alleged that they were refused the opportunity to rent the single-family home. Under the proposed consent order, which still must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, the defendants will pay $14,000 to the HUD complainants, $10,000 into a victim fund to compensate other aggrieved families and $12,000 to the United States as a civil penalty.
     In addition, the proposed consent decree prohibits the defendants from discriminating in the future against families with children and requires the defendants to receive training on the requirements of the FHA and provide periodic reports to the department.

Justice Department settles with Beaumont over alleged disability discrimination

May 17, 2016
The Justice Department announced a settlement with the city of Beaumont, Texas, for $475,000 over allegations the city discriminated against persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities trying to live in small group homes in residential districts. The city has also agreed to make changes to its zoning and land use practices.
     “Persons with disabilities have the same right to live in and enjoy their communities as all other families do throughout our nation,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, said. “The Justice Department will continue to eliminate discriminatory barriers that impede these individuals from doing so.”

Minneapolis and St. Paul settle federal housing complaints, agree to further review

May 17, 2016
A year after neighborhood groups and affordable housing advocates filed federal complaints saying Minneapolis and St. Paul contributed to racial and ethnic segregation, community members said they are cautiously optimistic that change is on the way.
     The complaints by the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing (MICAH), lodged with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said the Twin Cities concentrated affordable housing in “low-opportunity, high-poverty communities” — allegations the cities deny.
     But instead of having HUD investigate the claims, the cities opted to negotiate voluntary compliance agreements. The agreements require that they include more community members as they analyze and address regional affordable housing issues.

Insurance denials fuel racial segregation, suit alleges

May 17, 2016
The National Fair Housing Alliance filed suit against a major insurance company Tuesday, alleging it refuses to insure buildings where tenants pay rent with public vouchers, a violation of local and federal housing laws.
     Travelers Indemnity Co. has consistently denied commercial building owners habitational insurance — critical insurance for multi-unit building owners that covers tenant liabilities — according to the lawsuit, filed in US District Court.
      Connecticut-based Travelers said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
     The denials of insurance are exacerbating a lack of affordable housing in Washington, said Shanna Smith, president of the National Fair Housing Alliance. That’s because building owners are refusing to rent to residents who use vouchers, since it makes it more difficult to obtain insurance, she said.

Justice Department reaches $475,000 settlement with Beaumont, Texas, to resolve disability discrimination in housing lawsuit

May 05, 2016
The Justice Department today announced that the city of Beaumont, Texas, has agreed to pay $475,000 and change its zoning and land use practices to resolve a lawsuit alleging that it discriminated against persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities who sought to live in small group homes in the city’s residential neighborhoods. The consent decree must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The lawsuit, filed on May 26, 2015, alleged that the city violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act when it imposed a one-half mile spacing rule that prohibited many small group homes from operating in Beaumont.
     The suit further sought to prohibit the city from imposing fire code requirements that exceeded those imposed by the state of Texas as part of its certification and funding of such homes. These restrictions prohibited numerous persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities from living in Beaumont and resulted in the institutionalization in a nursing home of a woman who was forced to move out of her home. Although the city alleged that its restrictions were justified by a Texas statute, the state of Texas later clarified in a statement it submitted to the court during the litigation that neither the spacing requirement nor the heightened fire code requirements were required by Texas law. Under the terms of the consent decree, the city will allow small group homes to operate in any residential district and will not subject such homes to fire code requirements that exceed the state’s requirements for certification of such homes.
     The city will also pay $435,000 in monetary damages to 11 individuals with disabilities, their family members and companion care providers who were subject to the city’s discriminatory code enforcement practices. The city will also pay $15,000 to the United States as a civil penalty and $25,000 to Disability Rights Texas, the organization that represents the individuals who filed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) complaints and intervened in the United States’ lawsuit.


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