Bridgeport Fair Housing Press Release

In response to a State Supreme Court decision handed down earlier this week on the side of Section 8 recipients reaffirming their protection under the state's housing discrimination statutes, Bridgeport's Fair Housing Director indicated it was not only a solid victory for Connecticut's lower-income families but also a solid victory for the state as well.   Joe Wincze, who besides being the city's Fair Housing Officer is also President of the Fair Housing Association of Connecticut, stated, "This most alive and well in Connecticut!"

The State Supreme Court with its decision on Monday in effect reversed a decision made at the trial court level by Judge Cocco in the Bridgeport Housing court in June, 1998.  At that time Judge Cocco ruled that a Fairfield landlord was within his rights to reject two prospective tenants from Bridgeport who were on the Section 8 program because the landlord did not agree with the requirements of the federal subsidy program and, therefore, refused to rent them an apartment.  he also claimed their income was insufficient despite their Section 8 subsidies.

"I am simply elated by the State Supreme Court's decision", state Wincze, "because I believe it sends a strong message throughout the state and even outside the state that Connecticut is indeed concerned about protection against discrimination for all its residents regardless of their source of income."

The two tenants who were rejected by the Fairfield landlord had originally contacted the Bridgeport Fair Housing Office to complaint about their treatment in the spring of 1994.  At that time, Wincze assisted them in gathering evidence and in filing their complaints of alleged housing discrimination with the Connecticut Commission On Human Rights and Opportunities.  Connecticut Legal Services agreed to represent the tenants with regards to their complaints.  Following a Cause Finding by the Connecticut Commission On Human Rights and Opportunities in August of 1994, the case ended up in Superior Court- Bridgeport Housing Session at the request of the landlord.

With the decision of the State Supreme Court, the court concluded that landlords were required to make rental housing available to potential tenants who rely on Section 8 housing assistance and, therefore, must also abide by the requirements of the Section 8 program.  This overturned the decision made by Judge Cocco at the Superior Court level when he ruled that he did not believe the Connecticut legislature so intended.   By their decision, the State Supreme Court is now sending the case back to Superior Court with the instruction that the tenants eligibility for having sufficient income must include consideration of their Section 8 subsidies.

Wincze said he was not concerned about the case being sent back to Superior Court.   "With the new guidelines set forth by the Supreme Court mandating that the tenant's  income to determine whether or not they can afford the unit takes into consideration what portion of the rent they will have to pay after Section 8 pays the difference should be a relatively easy decision to make.  In one case the tenant would pay $64 and in the other case it would only be $11.  Yes, I believe the court will now be able to decide that the tenants' income to afford these rents costs is more than sufficient!"

Contact: Joe Wincze, 576-8323