Familial status/Section 8 suit settled for $7,500

DATE: September 12, 1996
CONTACT: Mark Lattanzi, 413-539-9796


Deborah Whitten settled her federal housing discrimination lawsuit against the Country Garden Apartments in Southampton this week for $7,500. The suit alleged discrimination based on familial status -- having children -- and receipt of a Section 8 housing subsidy. As part of the overall settlement of the lawsuit, Ms. Whitten moved into the apartment for which she had been rejected by the landlord weeks earlier.

Ms. Whitten had sought the apartment because she and her children were living doubled-up with her parents in a small apartment in Northampton. The landlord was threatening to evict the entire family because of the overcrowding. When she found a vacancy at Country Garden, she thought she would be easily accepted, but instead was rejected after the owner said he would not take rental subsidies any longer and would not accept families with children in certain apartments.

Ms. Whitten filed suit in federal court over the summer, claiming that she had been discriminated against because she has two children and because she has a federal Section 8 rental subsidy. She sought an apartment at Country Garden, and unspecified damages to compensate her for the distress she suffered because of the discrimination.

"I am very pleased that I moved into the apartment I wanted, although I wish I didn't have to go to court to get it," Ms. Whitten said. "I hope that because of this case, no one else will face the loss of an apartment just because they have children and receive some government benefit."

The settlement provides for $5,000 for Ms. Whitten, $2,500 for her counsel, the Housing Discrimination Project, Inc. of Holyoke, Massachusetts, and a promise from the landlord that it will not discriminate in the future against any person protected under the fair housing laws.

The Housing Discrimination Project, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating housing discrimination in central and western Massachusetts