Idaho complex agrees to pay $6,250 and change occupancy policies to settle family status case

An Idaho apartment complex that receives a project-based Section 8 subsidy from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban (HUD) agreed in June to pay $6,250 to a family with children that was denied a unit because of an overly restrictive occupancy policy. The June 2002 settlement also calls for the complex to adopt a nondiscriminatory occupancy policy, train staff in fair housing laws, submit to monitoring, and notify the public that it no longer discriminates against families with children.

In April 1998, Toni Jones, who at the time was seven months pregnant with her third child, inquired about the availability of two-bedroom apartments at the Saturn Village Apartments in Idaho Falls for herself; her husband, Spencer; the couple’s two-year old son, Darian; their one-year old daughter, Chelsea; and their unborn child. Julie Winn, the complex manager, refused to permit Jones to apply for an apartment, stating that because the Joneses wanted to occupy a unit with five persons, they could not rent a two-bedroom apartment at the complex, which had a two person per bedroom occupancy restriction. In addition, Winn advised Jones that she and her family were ineligible for a two-bedroom unit because the Joneses’ two young children were of different genders and management policy specifically precluded children of different sexes from
sharing bedrooms in an apartment.

Family leaves Idaho after facing family status discrimination at HUD-subsidized complex

Because there was a waiting list for three-bedroom units at the complex, the Jones family was precluded from living at the property. Shortly thereafter, because they could not find suitable, alternative housing, Jones and her family were forced to leave Idaho.

After encountering Saturn Village’s discriminatory housing policies, Spencer and Toni Jones contacted the Idaho Fair Housing Council (FHC) for assistance. The Idaho Fair Housing Council investigated the allegations against Saturn Village and assisted the Jones family in filing a discrimination complaint with HUD. The FHC also filed complaints against the complex on its own behalf, asserting that its mission had been frustrated. Both the Jones family’s complaint and that of the FHC were filed in October 1998.

HUD investigators conducted and completed an investigation of the complaints and attempted conciliation without success. On September 20, 2000, the Secretary of HUD issued a Charge of Discrimination, asserting that the Defendants had been engaging in discriminatory housing practices in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. The Joneses and the FHC chose to have their complaints resolved in a civil action filed in federal district court.

The Department of Justice, acting in the interest of the complainants, filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho. The federal complaint was filed in December 2000, more than two years after the Jones family and the Fair Housing Council filed their complaints with HUD.