FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, MARCH 31, 2005
TDD (202) 514-1888
CHALMETTE-BASED PROPERTY OWNERS AND MANAGERS TO PAY $100,000 IN CIVIL PENALTIES AS PART OF SETTLEMENT OF JUSTICE DEPARTMENT HOUSING DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement with the owners and managers of more than 120 apartments in Chalmette and Violet in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, to settle allegations of discrimination against African American apartment seekers.
“Access to housing free from racial discrimination is a necessary ingredient towards self-improvement and opportunity,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “To refuse an individual housing because of their race is both illegal and immoral. The Justice Department will continue to pursue vigorously such discrimination.”
Under the consent order, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the defendants - B & S Properties of St. Bernard, L.L.C.; FOSCO Enterprises, Inc.; Berkeley Foster; Selena Foster; Lonnie Foster; and Linda Foster - will pay civil penalties to the government totaling $100,000. They also will pay $60,000 to compensate individuals subject to the alleged discriminatory housing practices and $10,000 to provide community-wide training on the Fair Housing Act for housing providers and tenants in St. Bernard Parish. The settlement, which still must be approved by the court, also bars the defendants from future discrimination based on race or color.
The lawsuit, which was filed in April 2004, stemmed from fair housing testing conducted by the Justice Department. In its complaint, the Department alleged that the defendants: discouraged African Americans from renting apartments while encouraging white applicants to do so; told African American prospective applicants that no apartments were available for rent while telling white applicants that apartments were available; and steered African Americans to apartments in the largely black neighborhood of Village Square in Chalmette while encouraging white applicants to rent apartments elsewhere in predominantly white areas of town. Chalmette is more than 90% white.
“Today’s important settlement agreement, made possible by the commitment of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, is compelling evidence that the Department will not tolerate racial discrimination in any form whatsoever,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Jim Letten. “Further, this commitment and the resulting settlement, including the $170,000 in penalties and compensation, will help to ensure that Americans of all races have free access to housing of their choice without bearing the burden of deceitful and discriminatory conduct by a small group of individuals. Fair housing access is everyone’s right.”
Individuals who believe they may have been the victims of unlawful housing discrimination by any of these defendants should contact the Justice Department’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section at 1-800-896-7743 (ext. 92). Additional information about the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status (having children under 18 years old), national origin and disability. Since January 21, 2001, the Civil Rights Division has filed 153 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, including 51 alleging discrimination based on race or color.