The Justice Department announced today that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana approved its settlement with the city of New Orleans regarding a housing discrimination lawsuit late yesterday.
Under the settlement, the city agrees to permit the conversion of the former Bethany Nursing Home, located at 2535 Esplanade Avenue, into 40 units of affordable housing. Half of the units in the new Esplanade complex will be designated as permanent supportive housing and will be reserved for formerly homeless persons with disabilities. In addition, the settlement commits New Orleans to developing additional supportive housing for 350 persons with disabilities over the next three years.
“We are very pleased to have worked constructively with New Orleans to reach an agreement that will not only enable the Esplanade to be built, but that will also provide additional permanent supportive housing for 350 persons with disabilities in New Orleans,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division.
“Nondiscriminatory housing is a fundamental right of the citizens of New Orleans, and this settlement agreement continues the efforts to rebuild and improve a housing inventory ravaged by Hurricane Katrina,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite Jr. for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “I applaud the cooperative efforts of the city and the department to reach a resolution that is in the best interests of persons with disabilities, who are amongst the most vulnerable members of our community.”
In addition to the development of 350 additional permanent supportive housing units, the settlement requires that the city agree to provide all appropriate permits for the Esplanade, amend its Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance to allow permanent supportive housing, continue its work to prepare and implement a reasonable accommodation policy approved by the United States, conduct fair housing training for key city officials and be subject to reporting requirements.
The State Bond Commission, which was also named as a defendant, is not a party to the settlement. On March 20, 2014, the Bond Commission voted not to approve a settlement. As a result, the Justice Department has moved to reopen the litigation against the Bond Commission and the court has scheduled a status conference for June 26, 2014.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits governments from discriminating on the basis of disability in administering their zoning laws. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at the division website .