HUD ALJ Includes Source of Income as Sex Discrimination in Holyoke MA Case

HUD Administrative Law Judge William C. Cregar issued a precedent setting decision in July, ruling that Holyoke, Massachusetts landlords George and Mary Ross illegally discriminated against tenants on the basis of sex and national origin. Judge Cr egar assessed a $10,000 civil penalty against the landlords and awarded the Housing Discrimination Project, Inc. over $6,500 to compensate it for expenses incurred in the investigation of the Rosses plus $3,772 in attorneys fees.

"This ruling sets an important precedent. It not only penalizes a landlord for discrimination on the basis of national origin - in this case one of the prospective tenants was Puerto Rican - but it establishes that discrimination against welfare recipie nts is also sex discrimination," stated Marshall Lehrmen, General Counsel of HUD Region 1.

"Women who receive welfare are often denied housing because they need assistance. We now have the ability to charge discriminators with sex discrimination when these cases arise."

In the March 22, 1994 hearing, Cregar heard testimony from both Hispanic witnesses and white tenants who told of Ross stating that he "does not rent to people on welfare." Additional testimony from the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare showed t hat the overwhelming percentage of AFDC recipients in the City of Holyoke and Hamden County are women. Because Ross offered no compelling business reason for refusing to allow women who receive AFDC to rent his apartment, Judge Cregar ruled that Mr. Ross discriminated on the basis of their sex.

Witnesses also told of hearing Mr. Ross stating that he "did not want to rent to Puerto Ricans or Negroes because they play the music too loud, drink too much and they are always on welfare, and I don't want the apartment being ruined."

Peggy Maisel, Director of the Housing Discrimination Project, Inc. (HDP), had high praise for the witnesses in this case. "We are very grateful and proud to have a group of people working with us to win this case. We could not have done it without their commitment to fair housing for all."

The case was filed by the Housing Discrimination Project on the basis of national origin discrimination and sex discrimination. The case is precedent setting because, it is the first time that an Administrative Law Judge has decided that when a woman i s discriminated against because she is a welfare recipient, this constitutes sex discrimination.

Director Maisel said, "This decision means that when a woman is denied housing because of the source of her income, the woman may be able to file a federal housing discrimination complaint based on sex and prevail on the basis of her sex. In states wher e there is no state statute protecting people from discrimination because of the source of their income, this decision provides them an opportunity to file a housing discrimination claim."

For more information about the HDP, and the decision, call (413) 539-9796.

[HUD v. George and Mary Ross, HUDALJ 01-92-0466-8]