Public housing units open in Richmond, Calif., for persons with disabilities as result of settlement of lawsuit

Protection & Advocacy, Inc.
Oakland Legal Office
433 Hegenberger Rd., Suite 220
Oakland, Calif., 94621-1448

CONTACT: Scott Chang (650) 947-9906
Fred Nisen (510) 430-8033

August 31, 2001

United States District Judge William Alsup approved last week a $111,000 settlement of a housing discrimination case brought by persons with disabilities who alleged that they were discriminated against by the City of Richmond Housing Authority because of their disabilities. They had been transferred off a public housing waiting list and told that apartment complexes previously set aside for seniors and people with disabilities were now closed to people with disabilities.  As a result of the lawsuit, the Richmond Housing Authority transferred persons with disabilities back to the waiting list and agreed to open the senior/disabled apartment complexes to persons with disabilities.

In January 1999, Judith Martin and Leon Victoria, life-long residents of Richmond with disabilities, applied for apartment units in the senior/disabled apartment complexes owned by the Richmond Housing Authority.   The Richmond Housing Authority owns three senior/disabled apartment complexes containing approximately 350 units. 

According to Fred Nisen, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, persons with disabilities are eligible for public housing built for seniors, unless a housing authority has obtained approval from the United States Department of Housing & Urban Development (“HUD”) to designate senior/disabled apartment complexes as seniors only. 

Nevertheless, in July 1999, the Richmond Housing Authority officially closed its waiting list to persons with disabilities without obtaining approval from HUD.

In Fall 2000, a lawsuit was filed in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of a class of persons with disabilities against the Richmond Housing Authority seeking the re-opening of the senior/disabled apartment complexes to persons with disabilities.

The recently announced settlement requires the Richmond Housing Authority to: allow persons with disabilities to apply for apartment units at the senior/disabled apartment complexes; refrain from attempting to obtain approval from the federal government to designate the senior/disabled apartment complexes as seniors only for at least two years; develop an education program to lessen any conflicts between persons with disabilities and seniors; and, provide public housing apartment units to the named plaintiffs.  The settlement also requires that the Richmond Housing Authority pay the named plaintiffs a total of $111,000 in damages, attorneys’ fees, and funds set aside to implement the education program.

As a result of this settlement, Ms. Martin has a place to call home.  Now, Ms. Martin will be able to have her grandchildren visit her.  “Now, I have someplace to call home,” said Ms. Martin, “I will be able to have my granddaughter visit.”  “This settlement will allow Richmond residents with disabilities to have access to affordable public housing, allowing them to live productive lives,” said Mr. Nisen.

The named plaintiffs were represented by the Law Offices of Scott Chang in Los Altos Hills, California and Protection & Advocacy, Inc. in Oakland, California.  Protection & Advocacy is a state-wide non-profit organization that works in partnership with people with disabilities to protect, advocate for and advance their human, legal and service rights.