New Orleans, LA

Arrest record not enough to ban public housing rental, HUD says

November 04, 2015
Public housing agencies may not deny housing to people based solely on their arrest records, according to new guidelines from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Nov. 2 directive is designed to reduce recidivism.
     An estimated 100 million in the United States have some type of arrest record. Each year, more than 600,000 people are released from state and federal prisons, according to HUD, which said that the less chance they have of securing a home, the greater the chance they will return to crime.
     The guidelines come at the same time that the Housing Authority of New Orleans is holding meetings with residents and landlords to hammer out its own criminal background check policy. HANO announced in 2013, when it was still under federal control, that it would no longer automatically bar people from housing or employment based on their criminal histories. But after more than two years it has yet to implement that policy fully, frustrating local housing advocates.

To settle discrimination lawsuit, Slidell landlord pays $15,000 and brings in property management company

September 16, 2014
A Slidell landlord who was sued for discrimination has agreed to turn over management of his properties to an outside company and will pay the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center $15,000 to settle the lawsuit, the Fair Housing Action Center said Tuesday (Sept. 16).
     The center, which investigates housing discrimination complaints, sued Steven Stubenrauch in federal court in December 2013, alleging that Stubenrauch violated the federal Fair Housing Act by repeatedly misrepresenting the availability of his advertised rental property to African Americans.
     "No one should be excluded from renting a home because of their race,' Fair Housing Action Center Executive Director James Perry said in a news release.

U.S. Bank accused of housing discrimination in maintaining New Orleans foreclosed properties

March 11, 2014
U.S. Bank has allowed foreclosed properties in New Orleans' predominantly African-American neighborhoods to fall into disrepair with trash strewn in yards and overgrown weeds while similar houses in majority white neighborhoods are properly maintained, the National Fair Housing Alliance said Tuesday (March 11) as part of its two-year campaign highlighting the condition of vacant, bank-owned houses.
     In response, Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank said the group's claims are inaccurate because the bank is often the corporate trustee of an investment pool of properties with no legal right to maintain the houses. The bank said the National Fair Housing Alliance "has shown with this issue that they are far more interested in headlines than addressing a real community need."
     Since 2012, the National Fair Housing Alliance has filed complaints under the federal Fair Housing Act with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, arguing that foreclosed, bank-owned homes in black and Latino neighborhoods across the U.S. are often ignored and blighted, while homes in white neighborhoods are cared for and marketed to be sold.

New Orleans Mission homeless shelter agrees to end discrimination against pregnant women

December 06, 2012
One year after the New Orleans Mission evicted a homeless woman because she was seven months pregnant, it has agreed to end such discriminatory practices, undergo fair housing training and provide financial restitution to the victim, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center announced Monday. The case highlights the scarce resources available to women in a city with a rapidly expanding homeless population.
     Ted Jackson, The Times-Picayune archive "The idea that a woman who was pregnant would have no option but to sleep in the street was simply not acceptable," said executive director James Perry.
     There are approximately 4,903 homeless people in Orleans and Jefferson parishes, and of those, 1,079 are women, according to Unity of Greater New Orleans. Yet the largest shelter, the Mission, only has 20 beds for women and the second biggest, the Ozanam Inn, only serves men. There are 125 family shelter beds but they typically run at capacity.

Parish accused of limiting housing for African-Americans

January 31, 2012
The U.S. Department of Justice has sued St. Bernard Parish, accusing it of a multi-year campaign to limit rental housing for African-Americans after Hurricane Katrina.
     Parish President David Peralta was not immediately available for comment on the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans. It involves ordinances and zoning regulations enacted under previous administrations.
     The lawsuit, filed by the Department of Justice late Tuesday, said the parish set up a difficult approval process for single-family rentals, eliminated multifamily housing in much of the parish and repeatedly tried to block development of affordable apartment complexes.
     It also said a federal judge ruled in October that the parish had discriminated against blacks. That earlier suit was brought by nonprofit organization the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, rather than the government.
     

Shelter criticized for turning away pregnant woman

December 15, 2011
After a woman who was seven months pregnant was turned away from a shelter about a week before Christmas, a fair housing advocate says he is livid.
     Fair housing advocate James Perry is threatening to bring legal action against the New Orleans Mission for the way it handled a situation involving a pregnant woman.
     “It is illegal to deny a person housing because they are pregnant,” Perry said emphatically to WDSU.
     Perry said he plans to bring litigation against the mission for violating the federal Fair Housing Act.
     

Judge raps St. Bernard again over housing

October 25, 2011
In a move now seemingly commonplace, a federal judge on Monday once again found St. Bernard Parish in contempt for attempts to stop the development of four contentious mixed-income apartment complexes in Chalmette.
     And immediately after the order that threatened escalating fines or "coercive sanctions" if the parish did not authorize Entergy to release electricity to three of the four sites, the Parish Council held an emergency meeting and voted, 4-3, that Parish President Craig Taffaro make that authorization.
     Before the vote, Taffaro asked the council to allow him to hold his ground.
     "Obviously, my position is to incur the debt and fight the release to Entergy, but obviously I cannot do that without the council," Taffaro said.

DOJ obtains $70K settlement in housing lawsuit

August 30, 2011
The Justice Department says a group of New Orleans landlords has agreed to pay $70,000 in damages and penalties to settle a lawsuit alleging they denied housing to African-American prospective renters at an apartment building in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
     The agreement, which still must be approved by a federal judge in Louisiana, was announced Monday.
     The settlement would resolve a lawsuit alleging that the defendants - Betty Bouchon, the Bouchon Limited Family Partnership and Sapphire Corp. - discriminated against the prospective renters. The allegations were based on fair-housing testing conducted by the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.
     GNOFHAC filed a separate lawsuit, which is pending in federal court.

HUD and Louisiana announce settlement agreement to end legal challenge to Road Home Program

July 09, 2011
Homeowners living in Cameron, Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes may be eligible for additional compensation under Louisiana’s Road Home Program under the terms of a settlement agreement announced yesterday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the State of Louisiana and plaintiffs in a federal housing discrimination lawsuit.
     HUD, Louisiana, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, National Fair Housing Alliance and others agreed to end a legal challenge to the State’s Road Home Program. Under the terms of the agreement, Louisiana will award an estimated $62 million under its new Blight Reduction Grant Adjustment Program. Additional assistance under this anti-blight effort will be awarded to approximately 1,300 homeowners in those four parishes who received compensation under Option 1 of the State’s Road Home Program based upon the pre-storm value of their damaged homes, and as a result still have not been able to repair and re-occupy their homes.
     “This agreement is a huge help to families who clearly want to get back into in their homes but continue to struggle to make the needed repairs to their properties,” says HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “While this additional compensation goes a long way to helping folks complete their recovery, we’re also going to make sure that those who left their blighted properties behind are held accountable.”

HUD settles suit over Katrina housing program

July 07, 2011
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said Wednesday that it would hand out $62 million to 1,460 Louisiana homeowners to settle a lawsuit that alleged a Hurricane Katrina rebuilding program was unfair to blacks and left many people unable to rebuild in neighborhoods like the Lower 9th Ward after the 2005 storm.
     The agreement ends a lawsuit filed in 2008 in federal court in Washington, D.C., by five homeowners and housing advocates over the way grants were handed out by the Road Home program. The suit alleged Road Home discriminated against blacks because it calculated the worth of a home on housing values prior to Katrina's assault on the Gulf Coast.

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