New York City outsider - Restriction policy challenged

July 07, 2015
The Anti-Discrimination Center (ADC), acting on behalf of three African-American plaintiffs, is challenging New York City’s policy of barring City residents who live outside the community district in which affordable housing is being built from competing on an equal basis for all available units. The complaint was filed in federal district court in Manhattan today.
     New York City remains the second-most residentially segregated major city in the country, within one of the most segregated major metropolitan areas in the U.S. The patterns of segregation in New York City are unmistakable, and arose from decades of intentional discrimination and segregation.
     The segregation extends to the community district level. Because of this, the City’s policy in connection with half of the units in a development — favoring existing community district residents and disfavoring New Yorkers who live outside the community district — winds up helping the dominant racial or ethnic group in the community district and hurting those groups who are underrepresented in the community district. In other words, the City has long started with mostly segregated community districts and has then put in place a process that tips the scales in favor of the status quo.

Court reaffirms fair-housing fight

July 07, 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June affirming the use of "disparate impact" lawsuits to combat housing discrimination breathes new life into an important standard for protecting the rights of racial minorities, people with disabilities, families with children, and other victims of discrimination.
     The court could have robbed the Fair Housing Act of the disparate-impact standard but instead decided the Texas v. Inclusive Communities Project case in a way that reinforces protections for disadvantaged participants in the real estate market. Pennsylvania has been the site of numerous important disparate-impact cases, and the court's decision makes possible new challenges to discrimination against renters and home buyers.
     The disparate-impact standard bars housing practices that are harmful mainly to protected groups, even if there's no intentional discrimination. For example, the Housing Equality Center sued an apartment complex in West Chester that threatened to evict a mother, father, and young child from their two-bedroom apartment when the mother became pregnant again because the apartment complex had a policy that no more than three people could occupy a two-bedroom apartment. Needless occupancy restrictions like this primarily hurt families with children, a protected group under the Fair Housing Act. As a result of the lawsuit, the complex began permitting families of four to live in two-bedroom units.

New York bans 'poor doors' in win for low income tenants

June 29, 2015
New York City is banning “poor doors” in a move one city official on Monday called a “big win for dignity”.
     Thanks to a little talked about provision in New York’s rent-stabilization law, builders who receive a tax break for offering some units to low-income tenants will no longer be allowed to build separate entrances for the rich and the poor.
     The controversial two-door rule came to an end after New York City mayor Bill de Blasio inserted a provision into a tax bill that was approved by the New York state senate late last week.
     “I think that the state legislature and the city are now doing the right thing in terms of treating people in every socioeconomic group with the same level of respect and dignity,” New York City councilwoman Helen Rosenthal told the Guardian.

Supreme Court upholds housing discrimination law

June 25, 2015
A deeply divided Supreme Court delivered an unexpected reprieve to civil rights groups on Thursday, ruling that housing discrimination need not be intentional in order to be illegal.
     The justices said legal objections to lending, zoning, sales and rental practices only need to show that they had a disparate impact on blacks or other minorities.
     The court's 5-4 decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was an unlikely conclusion to a years-long effort by opponents of the civil rights-era law to reduce its effectiveness against housing policies and practices used by many builders, lenders and insurers. Twice before, the justices had agreed to hear a challenge to the law, only to see the cases withdrawn or settled before reaching court.

Another landlord accused of discriminating against renters with kids

June 24, 2015
You may think your kids are awesome. But does your landlord or condo association? Maybe, maybe not.
     A North Attleborough apartment complex owner is on the hook for $135,000 in restitution after a real estate agent leasing units at the Royal Park Apartments allegedly steered families with children into certain buildings and floors.
     A government testing agent, who met with a real estate agent leasing apartments at Royal Park, was given a rather blunt explanation why some buildings had a mix of adult renters and families with children, despite efforts to the contrary.
     “You will see some kids there ’cause if they are born there I can’t throw them away. They have to stay there,” the agent said, according to the court complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Applicant appealing denial of Alzheimer's group home in Upper Saddle River

June 24, 2015
The Upper Saddle River Planning Board/Zoning Board at its June 25 meeting is expected to hear an appeal to a letter of denial issued by the zoning officer on the proposed development of a group home for persons with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
     Blake Gardens, LLC submitted a zoning application on March 12 to John Walsh, the Upper Saddle River zoning/property maintenance officer on its intention to build a group home for persons suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, which would have a maximum occupancy of 15 people, according to documents acquired by Town Journal.
     Walsh, as the zoning officer, determined it was not a permitted use and that the site approval is required and issued a denial letter on April 22. In a May 8 response letter by attorney Steven J. Tripp, of Wilentz Goldman & Spitzer P.A., which is representing Blake Gardens, they reference the Municipal Land Use Law and assert that the denial is "discriminatory" and that it constitutes a violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act, which requires local governments to make "reasonable accommodation" to provide those with handicaps equal opportunity to housing.

Few rental units available for Louisville’s new refugees

June 23, 2015
NEWS | Catholic Charities, Cathy Hinko, Dana Duncan, John Koehlinger
     JUNE 23, 2015 6:00 AM Email Print
     inShare 1 Few rental units available for Louisville’s new refugees by David Serchuk
     Image from Kentucky Refugee Ministries Image courtesy Kentucky Refugee Ministries Louisville’s tight rental market is leaving few housing units available for new refugees, leading one of the city’s top aid groups in a scramble to place new refugees and in search of a more permanent fix — including working with Metro government on a proposal to build new, refugee-specific transitional housing.
     Kentucky Refugee Ministries Executive Directer John Koehlinger said there could be a severe shortage in housing for the city’s incoming refugees as soon as two years from now.
     “The problem is saturation,” he said. “We fill the complex, people renew their leases, and there are fewer and fewer vacant apartments for our new arrivals.”

Suit asks insurance for disabled homeowners with pit bulls

June 22, 2015
People with disabilities shouldn't be turned down for homeowners insurance just because they have pit bulls for service dogs, a federal court lawsuit filed in Oregon says.
     Undercover testers who told an insurance company they had disabilities and used pit bulls for "assistance animals" couldn't get a price quote, even for animals a doctor had approved or that had no history of aggression, the lawsuit says.
     The lawsuit knits two strands in the stories of Americans and their animals: the long-running scrap over pit bulls and tensions over the evolving, expanding role of service animals.
     Pit pulls, and some other breeds, have a reputation for aggressive behavior and sometimes are prohibited or restricted - one website lists 700 cities that do. In response, some states have pre-empted local authority to pass "breed-specific legislation." The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals lists 18 states.

Company files fair housing suits against town

June 19, 2015
A non-profit based in Altamont has filed state and federal lawsuits against the town of Colonie due to what the organization calls “intentional discrimination,” according to legal documents filed.
     The town’s attorney, Mike Maggiulli stated, however, that the town denies all allegations.
     Rehabilitation Support Services (RSS), a not-for-profit group which provides housing for people with mental disabilities, has filed litigation against the town of Colonie for discrimination by blocking a $30 million housing project called Colonie Hills that would provide affordable housing for elderly, veterans, low-income working families and individuals recovering from mental illness, officials said.
     “In rescinding the zoning classification based on the sequence of events just prior to the rescission and in applying different substantive criteria and procedures to RSS than it did to other Colonie Planned Development District (PDD) projects, Colonie’s actions constituted intentional discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act,” according to a federal filing from May.

Company denied permission to open drug-rehab center sues city of Tampa

June 16, 2015
A company prevented from opening a residential drug-rehab center in West Tampa has filed a lawsuit claiming the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
     In the lawsuit filed against the city last week in U.S District Court in Tampa, Lincoln Rock claims that in denying a special use permit for the center in 2013, the City Council ignored the advice of the city’s professional planners and, instead, pandered to the fears raised by neighbors that the center would bring criminals into their community.
     Lincoln Rock spent more than $1 million trying to open the center, the lawsuit states, and is asking the court to award damages and costs.
     The company also wants the court to declare that the city illegally discriminated against it and its clients and violated both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act, a federal law that protects people from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex and disability when they are renting, buying, or seeking a mortgage.

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