FHC-Detroit publishes $180,000,000 and Counting report detailing fair housing litigation trends

The Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit has released $180,000,000 and Counting, a summary of the fair housing lawsuits filed and assisted by the private fair housing groups that make up the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA). The publication covers fair housing lawsuits filed between 1990 and 2001. The report, released on June 22, is an update of the Center’s annual report on recoveries in lawsuits filed in state and federal courts. Overall, plaintiffs received more than $10 million since the 2001 report’s publication.

Lisa Rice, the executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Toledo and the immediate past president of NFHA, called $180,000,000 and Counting a "celebration and promotion of the achievements of private fair housing groups." She said the report not only proves that housing discrimination still exists, but that private fair housing agencies are actively "doing something about it." 

The Fair Housing Center sought and received information from all of NFHA’s member agencies. Eighty-six groups reported to the Center that they had ongoing litigation or litigation that had been resolved during 2001. Michael Olshan, the Center’s legal services coordinator, compiled the data and helped to assemble it in the report.

Report notes higher recoveries in cases

The 2002 update of the Center’s $... and Counting report noted several trends. First, the number of fair housing lawsuits filed in 2001 declined slightly. There were 165 new fair housing lawsuits filed by NFHA member organizations in 2001 compared with 168 in 2000. Both numbers are higher than the lowest total reported – 156 – in 1997.

Second, the total amount of recoveries reported in 2001 – $12,425,620 – was much higher than the $5,458,848 reported in 2000. The Fair Housing Center pointed out that the 2001 recovery total included a $4.5 million recovery in a fair housing lawsuit against Farmers Insurance Group. 

Third, the rate of success in lawsuits remained high at 93.7 percent. The reports compiled from 1990 to 1999 showed a rate of 93 percent. The Center surmised that strong case preparation and investigation by private fair housing groups yielded such positive results. 

Fourth, the percentage of racial discrimination cases filed made up 38.6 percent of all cases filed in 2000 and 2001. This is a decline from 49.3 percent during the 1990s. Disability lawsuits jumped to 21.1 percent of total cases in 2000 and 2001, compared to 13.1 percent between 1990 and 1999. Suits based on other protected classes remained static. 

Fifth, recoveries in racial discrimination suits decreased as a percentage during 2000 and 2001. The amount of recoveries in racial discrimination suits fell to 49.1 percent of all recoveries from 55.9 percent between 1990 and 1999. Recoveries in disability cases rose to 30.1 percent in 2000 and 2001, as compared to 3.2 percent in the 1990s. Recoveries in family status lawsuits also increased from 6.6 percent in the 1990s to 14.3 percent in 2000 and 2001. 

Finally, the report showed that fewer fair housing cases were in federal court. Between 1990 and 1999, 71.8 percent of lawsuits reported were filed in federal court. In the latest report, that number fell to 67.8 percent. Recoveries in federal lawsuits also fell as a percentage of total recoveries. In the 1990s, 75.5 percent of all recoveries in fair housing litigation came from federal lawsuits. The latest report shows that figure at 58.2 percent.

Overall, $180,000,000 and Counting shows that, while fair housing advocates have made a great deal of progress, there is still much work to be done.