N.O. Housing Authority, fair housing group, settle fair housing complaint

For Immediate Release

Date: October 10, 2003

Contact: Jeffery May/Stacy Seicshnaydre
Phone:(504) 596-2100/(504) 865-5158
Fax:(504) 596-2004 

A HUD fair housing complaint filed in December 2002 against the Housing Authority of New Orleans and the City of New Orleans has been resolved in the form of a conciliation agreement.  The complaint was filed by 10 former residents of the St Thomas Housing Development (joined later by 8 more residents).  

All parties to the conciliation agreed to provisions that will maximize the number of affordable units that will be available to former residents of St. Thomas on the site of the “new St. Thomas.” By removing income restrictions, the agreement effectively increases the number of units available to former residents from 181 to 304 on site, with 100 more affordable rental units planned for off site.  Now 31.6% of the total rental units on site will be available to former residents in good standing with HANO, a 12% increase in on site rental units available to former residents.  38% of the total on and off site rental units will be available to former residents. 

Former residents who are in good standing with HANO and enrolled in a job training or educational program (unless disabled or over 60) will be given a preference for the affordable units, on or off site.  Resident income cannot be used to prevent former residents from returning to the site, as long as they meet the above criteria.  An advertising and marketing campaign will seek to make former residents aware of housing opportunities at the new site, including the availability of moving expenses.  Construction on the first phase of development is planned for December 2003, with the first lease up of public housing units planned for the end of 2004. 

“We are pleased to see HANO, through its Receiver team, committing through this agreement to bring qualified residents back to the site,” stated Jeffrey May, Executive Director of the Fair Housing Action Center, which helped to advocate for the complainants.  The new St. Thomas will be a mixed income community consistent with the HUD HOPE VI program, which provides funding for the development.  According to Barbara Jackson, one of the complainants and President of the St. Thomas Resident Council, “People have really suffered through the relocation process.  This agreement will help us make sure that residents who lived through the hard times will now get to enjoy some of the good times too.”

“We would like to see qualified former residents remain in good standing with HANO so that they can enjoy their preference to return to the new St. Thomas,”stated Stacy Seicshnaydre, former General Counsel for FHAC.  Any former resident in jeopardy of losing good standing status will have 30 days to alleviate the problem.

HANO and the City admitted to no liability in signing the conciliation agreement; the complainants released HANO and the City from liability for future fair housing lawsuits relating to St. Thomas.  The complainants had added Historic Restorations, Inc. (HRI), the HOPE VI developer for St. Thomas, to the complaint as a respondent, but later removed them.  HRI was not a party to the agreement and was therefore not similarly released from liability.

Enforcement Agreement between certain residents of the St. Thomas Housing Development and the U.S. Department of HUD, Housing Authority of New Orleans, and the City of New Orleans

SUMMARY  (August 2003)

  • Complainants in good standing with HANO can return to one of the on site units at the new St. Thomas.
  • Complainants and other former residents needing four bedroom units can apply to live in one of the off site units.
  • Complainants who return will have their moving expenses paid.

 Construction of public and affordable housing units

  • In the first phase of construction (CS-1):  Construction of 122 units of public housing, 72 units of Elderly 202 housing, and 15 units of affordable tax credit housing in the Historic Buildings.  If funding is not obtained for the elderly housing, HANO and the City shall to the greatest extent possible seek to maximize the number of affordable units in any alternative construction.
  • In the second phase of construction (CS-2):  Construction of 60 units of public housing and 20 units of affordable housing.
  • HANO and the City shall construct 100 units of affordable housing in mixed income neighborhoods.  At least 50 of the units will be three bedrooms and HANO will attempt to build up to 50 of the units as four bedrooms, based on need.  None of the off site units will be subject to minimum income requirements, and former residents in good standing will be given a preference for these units. 
  • HANO and the City shall to the greatest possible extent try to maximize the construction of additional affordable units in future phases of development.  Former residents in good standing will be given a preference for any additional units and be subject to the same rental criteria as stated below.

Rental Criteria

  • None of the public housing units on or off site shall be subject to minimum income requirements; former residents in good standing will have a preference for the public and affordable units; former residents who are voucher holders can use them to rent one of the affordable units.
  • Former residents of St. Thomas will not be subject to additional criteria on or off site other than HANO's good standing requirement and a requirement that the head of household be employed or enrolled in a job or educational training program (unless disabled or over 60).

Bedroom sizes

  • In the first phase, 60 public housing units will be 2 bedrooms and 62 will be 3 bedrooms.  In the second phase, the range of bedroom sizes will be determined by HANO based on the needs of former residents.

 Education

  • HUD will provide fair housing training to HANO and City officials and employees.

Outreach

  • HANO shall implement an advertising and marketing campaign to make former St. Thomas residents aware of the opportunity to apply for units at the new St. Thomas.
  • HANO shall offer in person briefings to all former residents, which would include information and training on tenant rules, regulations, and how former residents can achieve a successful tenancy at the new St. Thomas.

Monitoring

  • HANO and the City shall submit all leasing and management criteria and policies to HUD, FHAC, and the St. Thomas Resident Council  for review and comment before implementation.
  • Upon request, the respondents shall make records available for inspection to FHAC and HUD relating to applications by former residents of St. Thomas for on or off site housing units at the new St. Thomas.
  • No records shall be destroyed without providing FHAC and HUD 30 days written notice and an opportunity to copy such records.
  • HANO shall submit quarterly reports to HUD, FHAC, and the St. Thomas Resident Council detailing compliance with the Conciliation Agreement.

General

  • The St. Thomas Resident Council will be provided an office on the site of the new St. Thomas, assuming funding is obtained for the development of the Historic Buildings.
  • HANO shall invite the St. Thomas Resident Council and FHAC to all meetings designed to obtain public comment on the new St. Thomas.

Duration

  • The agreement will be in effect for 3 years or as long as it takes to lease up all public and affordable housing units on or off site.