Department of Justice Seal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          CR

THURSDAY, APRIL 2, 1998 (202) 616-2765

TDD (202) 514-1888



WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The owners and operators of two large Clark, New Jersey apartment complexes--accounting for nearly 50 percent of the rental housing market in the city--have agreed to pay $300,000 in damages and penalties for allegedly discriminating against minorities.

The agreement, filed today in U.S. District Court in Newark, resolves two suits filed in December 1997, alleging that the owners and operators of Hillcrest Village and Lexington Village violated the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 by falsely informing African Americans about the availability of apartments to discourage them from renting.

"Even today, on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, we continue to find racial discrimination in rental housing," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "We must and we will remain vigilant to make the promises of the Fair Housing Act a reality for all Americans."

Under the terms of the decree, the defendants will:

include notices of nondiscrimination in their advertising and public statements;

provide fair housing training for their employees and rental agents;

establish a fund of $250,000 to compensate victims of the defendants' allegedly discriminatory rental practices;

pay any money remaining from the victim fund to the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey to further fair housing activities; and,

pay $50,000 in civil penalties.

Victims will be identified through a claims process to conducted by the Department over the course of the next nine months.

"This settlement signals a continuing commitment on the part of the Department of Justice to ensure that no individual in this community is denied an equal opportunity to obtain the housing of his or her choice" said Faith Hochberg, the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

The two lawsuits were part of a group of four in New Jersey that the Department developed through its testing program. Under the program, the Department sends trained pairs of African American and white individuals, posing as prospective tenants, to inquire about the availability of apartments. By comparing the experiences of the testers, investigators discover whether African Americans were treated less favorably than their white counterparts.

With the settlements announced today, the Department has now resolved three of the four New Jersey lawsuits, obtaining $1,870,000 in damages, civil penalties, and other monetary relief. Nationally, settlements stemming from testing cases have totaled more than $7,000,000.

Any person who believes he or she has been a victim of race discrimination at Hillcrest Village or Lexington Village to contact the Civil Rights Division at 1-800-896-7743.

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