WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today announced that Mississippi property owner Indigo Investments LLC, has agreed to pay $50,000 in monetary damages and civil penalties to settle the government’s Fair Housing Act lawsuit. The government alleged that Indigo and its former employees, Barbara A. Hamilton and Edward L. Hamilton, discriminated against African-American residents and members of interracial households at Homestead Mobile Home Village in Gulfport, Miss., which Indigo formerly owned and the Hamiltons formerly managed.
The lawsuit originated as a result of a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by an African-American couple who moved to the mobile home park after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. After investigating the complaint, HUD issued a charge of discrimination, and the case was referred to the Justice Department, which filed the lawsuit in June 2009.
"The law protects all individuals from harassment and discrimination in housing on the basis of race," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Unlawful discrimination is particularly abhorrent when directed against those who have been displaced by natural disaster. The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring equal housing opportunities for all, no matter their housing circumstances."
"Hurricane Katrina devastated the lives of many people on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Those persons on whose behalf relief was obtained in this case were doubly affected – first by the hurricane and then in the very homes where they sought refuge when they were subjected to discriminatory treatment on the basis of race. It is never right to discriminate on any basis and this office will remain vigilant to protect the citizens of south Mississippi from unlawful discrimination in housing on any protected basis," said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi John M. Dowdy.
"Losing one’s home to any disaster is disruptive enough without facing housing discrimination when trying to find a new home to restart your life, " said John Trasviña, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "HUD and the Department of Justice continue our joint enforcement actions to eliminate illegal housing discrimination in all forms."
Under the settlement, which was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Indigo Investments LLC, will pay $45,000 to 12 individuals and $5,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. The settlement also provides that if Indigo obtains any interest in rental dwellings in the future, it must adopt non-discrimination policies; require its members, employees and agents to receive fair housing training; and submit to further monitoring by the government. The agreement prohibits Homestead’s former managers, Barbara and Edward Hamilton, from owning or managing rental properties.
Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt. Persons who believe they have experienced or witnessed unlawful housing discrimination may call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777. More information about the Fair Housing Act can also be found at www.justice.gov/crt/housing or www.hud.gov/fairhousing.