Apartment complex agrees to pay $9,000 to settle Grand Rapids family status discrimination case

In January, Cambridge Partners, owners of the Wyndham Hills apartment complex in Grand Rapids, Mich. agreed to settle a complaint of housing discrimination filed originally with the Fair Housing Center of Greater Grand Rapids and subsequently with the Department of Housing & Urban Development Region V / Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity. The complaint was filed by Gordon and Cynthia Lietz who were twice turned down by Wyndham Hill Apartments. The complaint was settled with a concilia tion agreement approved by both parties and the federal government.

Mr. & Mrs. Lietz contacted the Fair Housing Center in April 1994, explaining that they had attempted to rent a two-bedroom apartment for their family (including two sons, ages two and one) at Wyndham Hills Apartments. Despite their qualifications and the availability of apartments, the Lietz's were twice denied the opportunity to apply because of management's policy limiting the number of occupants in each apartment to the number of bedrooms plus one person. Wyndham Hills' one-per-bedroom-plus-one ru le therefore allowed no more than three occupants in a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment even though it was more than 1,000 square feet in size.

Testing conducted by the Fair Housing Center provided evidence in support of the Lietz's complaint. The testing results were supplied to HUD along with the complaint of discrimination based upon familial status (the presence of children under 18). C laiming that the Cambridge Partners' policy discriminated against families such as the Lietz's, HUD investigated Cambridge Partners regarding the allegation that they were violating the 1988 amendment to the Fair Housing Act which prohibits housing provid ers from discriminating against families with children.

In order to settle the complaint, Cambridge Partners have agreed to the payment of $9,000 to the Lietz family who requested that $500 go to the Fair Housing Center. They have also agreed to change the occupancy policies for Wyndham Hills Apartments, Woodland Creek Apartments, Woodbridge Apartments, Pinery Woods Apartments, and Oak Valley Apartments. These five complexes, owned and managed by Cambridge Partners, consist of more than 1,300 apartments in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area (nearly 800 o f which are two-bedroom apartments). According to the agreement signed on January 18, the revised occupancy standard for each Cambridge Partners' complex will "be no more restrictive than the local governmental occupancy requirements for the locale in wh ich each is located." In Grand Rapids, the housing code requires a minimum of 150 square feet for the first occupant of a dwelling, with 100 additional square feet for each additional occupant, and at least 50 square feet of habitable floor area per be droom for each person who sleeps in the room. Many of the other Michigan localities surrounding Grand Rapids have similar occupancy laws.

Gordon and Cynthia Lietz, who are now in the process of purchasing their first home, are satisfied with the settlement obtained through the efforts of HUD and the Fair Housing Center. Gordon Lietz also stated that his family is pleased with the act ions taken by Cambridge Partners following the settlement.