Nonprofit developer wins 22-year fair housing legal battle against New York town and NY State agencies

After a fair housing legal battle spanning more than two decades, Housing Help, Inc. (HHI), a nonprofit housing developer in New York, has won the right to build a low to moderate income multifamily housing complex in the town of Huntington, New York. An August 2002 settlement with the town and the state of New York will provide funding for 77 owner-occupied units and 78 rental units at the new development to be called Maintenock Court.

Under the terms of the settlement, two New York state agencies will provide millions of dollars in funding for the project and pay a portion of HHI’s attorneys’ fees and costs.

Millions of dollars in funding will be provided

The New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation HTF) will provide a no-interest $2 million loan to HHI, which will be converted to a 30-year loan with one percent interest after construction of Maintenock Court is completed. HTF will also provide one $2  million grant and one $45,000 grant to HHI for the development. Finally, HTF will establish a $500,000 fund to assist home buyers at Maintenock Court with closing costs and down payments.

The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) will provide HHI with Low Income Housing Tax Credits of up to $1.54 million annually.
DHCR will also authorize a $300,000 loan to HHI for predevelopment expenses. Finally, the DHCR will provide a $1.925 million no-interest construction loan to HHI if its pending grant application with the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation is not  approved. Under the terms of the settlement, both HTF and DHCR will recommend to the Affordable Housing Corporation that HHI’s grant application be approved. The Town will contribute $250,000 in Community Development funds.

Huntington, New York is a town with approximately 200,000 residents, 94 percent of whom are white. The legal saga between HHI and the town of Huntington began in 1980 when HHI purchased a 14.6-acre piece of land in Huntington and applied for a zoning variance to allow the construction of multifamily housing. Town officials rejected the zoning change, because Huntington’s zoning laws only allowed multifamily construction in the town’s urban renewal corridor, an area in which nearly all of Huntington’s minority population lived.

The Huntington Branch of the NAACP, HHI, and two African American residents filed a fair
housing lawsuit against the Town of Huntington, the State of New York, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The plaintiffs asserted that the town’s
zoning laws and its refusal to grant a variance amounted to discrimination on the basis of race and national origin. In 1989, after years of legal wrangling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the town to change its zoning  rules.

Eight years after Supreme Court ruling, developer sues again when development funding blocked

In 1997, HHI sued again alleging Fair Housing Act violations, because the town and several New York State agencies continued to block the development by unreasonably  denying funding applications for the project. With the August settlement now signed, construction on Maintenock Court is slated for the spring of 2004.

“Although it has taken so long to reach this settlement, the issues were resolved through negotiation and compromise,” said Susan Lagville, HHI’s executive director. For more information about Maintenock Court and its history, visit HHI’s web site at www.housinghelp.net.

At the development, families with combined incomes of $33,060 to $83,120 will be able to purchase 77 units. Seventy rental units will be rented to families earning between
$27,550 and $62,340, the HUD-assigned median income level. Eight units in the development will be made affordable to households with incomes of $16,500 to $31,150.

Housing Help, Inc. v. The Town of Huntington
97 CV 3430 (ERK)
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York