Louisiana owners pay $325,000 for segregating African-Americans and whites at complex

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (FHAC) achieved a $325,000 settlementin a housing discrimination lawsuit filed against the Riviera Oaks Apartments. The Aprilsettlement closes a complaint filed by FHAC and joined by ten African-American tenantsfrom the apartment complex.

FHAC accused the apartment owners of segregatingAfrican-American tenants in apartments on one side of the 140-unit complex, requiringAfrican-Americans to use a swimming pool separate from whites, and denyingAfrican-Americans the same services provided to white tenants. Owners of the apartmentshave fired the on-site manager and are selling the apartments.

Testing evidence confirmed segregative practices at apartment complex

FHAC filed its housing discrimination complaint against the Riviera Oaks apartmentcomplex in a case that grew to include ten African-American tenants. Testing by the FairHousing Action Center found that African-American and white tenants were steered todifferent sides of the apartment complex. Black tenants occupied one side of the apartmentcomplex entirely, except for a white woman with biracial children and a white woman wholived in an apartment with an African-American man.

FHAC also learned that each side of the complex had a swimming pool that could be usedonly by residents living on that side. As a result, the managers effectively barred theoverwhelming majority of African-Americans from using the pool frequented by whites - evenwhen the pool on the "black side" of the complex was closed during the springand summer of 1995 and 1996. Tenants on the "white side" could control heatingand air-conditioning in their apartments. However, only management personnel could adjustthe "black side" apartments' temperatures, FHAC's investigation found.

The owners of the complex, Favrot Realty Partnership, agreed to the $325,000 settlementto resolve the case. The owners fired the on-site manager, Linda Kreger, after FHAC filedthe housing discrimination lawsuit against them. Favrot Realty has sold the apartmentcomplex.

Shawn Walton, an African-American woman who initiated the discrimination complaint,said, "This isn't the way things are supposed to be. Slavery is over. This is 1998.We are free. We are not living in a cage. Everybody [should have] equal opportunity."

FHAC used funds from HUD's Fair Housing Initiatives Program in its investigation.Attorney Susan Kohn of Simon, Peragine, Smith, and Redfearn represented FHAC and the otherplaintiffs in the case.