WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that it will seek court approval for the pro rata distribution of over $1 million in monetary damages among 756 individuals who were identified through a claims process as part of the resolution of a 2004 lawsuit by the United States that alleged a pattern or practice of discrimination by Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) against persons with disabilities.
The Justice Department’s complaint alleged that HABC violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Fair Housing Act by refusing to admit non-elderly persons with disabilities; failing to make its public housing units, common areas, and administrative offices accessible; and failing to provide sufficient assistance to persons with physical or mental disabilities who sought to rent private units through HABC’s Section 8 Housing subsidy program. The Justice Department’s lawsuit was resolved together with a lawsuit filed by three individuals with disabilities who were represented by the Maryland Disability Law Center. On Dec. 20, 2004, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland entered a consent order that settled the matter and required HABC to establish a $1 million victims compensation fund and implement changes to its housing facilities, programs, policies and practices.
“Federal law guarantees that Americans with disabilities have the right to seek fair and accessible housing within their communities,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of all the fair housing laws.”
Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department. In February 2006, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales announced Operation Home Sweet Home, a concentrated initiative to expose and eliminate housing discrimination in America. This initiative was inspired by the plight of displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina who were suddenly forced to find new places to live. Operation Home Sweet Home is not limited to the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina and targets housing discrimination all over the country.
More information about Operation Home Sweet Home is available at the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/fairhousing. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Since Jan. 1, 2001, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has filed 230 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 105 of which have alleged discrimination based on disability. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt.