The Justice Department announced today that the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana has approved its settlement with the Louisiana State Bond Commission resolving the department’s housing discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that the commission violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by adopting a moratorium on affordable housing financing in 2009. The moratorium blocked financing for a proposed 40-unit affordable housing project known as the “Esplanade.” Twenty of these units would provide permanent supportive housing to persons with disabilities.
Prior to the entry of the settlement by the court, the commission voted to approve financing for the Esplanade project and lifted the moratorium on affordable housing projects. Under the settlement, the commission agrees to refrain from further obstructing or delaying financing for the Esplanade and from adopting any future policy that would prevent consideration of affordable housing in New Orleans, including affordable housing for persons with disabilities. 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.
“We are very pleased to have worked with the Louisiana State Bond Commission to reach an agreement that will not only enable the Esplanade to be built, but that will also ensure that other affordable housing projects that include housing for persons with disabilities in New Orleans will not be subject to any moratorium,” 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.
The City of New Orleans was previously named as a defendant. In April 2014, the department and the city reached a settlement resolving the department’s claims. Approved by the court, the settlement determines that the city must permit the Esplanade project to proceed and must provide all appropriate permits for the project. The settlement also required that the city develop 350 additional permanent supportive housing units, 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.
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at this website .