FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
MONDAY, JANUARY 7, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SETTLES LAWSUIT AGAINST
LOUISIANA GREEN MEADOW APARTMENTS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The owners of a Tickfaw, Louisiana apartment complex will pay $30,500 in compensatory damages to an African-American male student at Southeastern Louisiana University and $1,000 in civil penalties to resolve a housing discrimination lawsuit filed by the Justice Department.
The consent decree, filed today in the U.S. District Court in New Orleans, resolves an April 2001 lawsuit, which alleged that the defendants, Louis and Frances Milazzo, co-owners and co-mangers of the Green Meadow Apartments, violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent apartments to African-American applicants on account of race. In addition to the payment of compensatory damages and civil penalties, the consent decree requires the defendants to complete fair housing training, adopt non-discriminatory rental policies and inform the public that they are equal housing opportunity providers.
"When landlords turn away individuals or families because of the color of their skin, it hurts not only those individuals or families, but the entire community," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph F. Boyd, Jr. "Discrimination of that kind will not be tolerated."
The lawsuit alleged that Michael Smith inquired about an apartment at Green Meadows and was turned away because he is African-American. He was interested in living at Green Meadows because the apartments are close to Southeastern Louisiana University, where he is a student. The complaint further alleged that the Milazzos' engaged in a pattern or practice of racial discrimination by: asking individuals who telephoned about vacant apartments to state their race; giving false information to African-Americans regarding the availability of apartments; declining to give African-Americans details about available apartments or the existence of a waiting list; and refusing to show available apartments to African-Americans.
Under the terms of the consent decree, the defendants will:
"In the United States, every man, woman and child has the right to obtain suitable housing, regardless of their color or the size and composition of their families," said Jim Letten, U.S. Attorney in New Orleans. "Housing providers in the New Orleans area are on notice: Anyone who violates this principle will be subjected to the sanctions which the United States can bring to bear."
Mr. Smith originally sought assistance regarding his discrimination complaint from the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, Inc. (FHAC), a private, nonprofit fair housing group. FHAC conducted testing, having matched pairs of black and white individuals pose as prospective tenants seeking units at the Green Meadow Apartments. The testing revealed instances in which the pairs were treated differently.
Mr. Smith filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD referred the complaint to the Justice Department after it investigated and determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discriminatory housing practices had occurred.
Persons who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination elsewhere should contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development at (800) 669-9777. Additional information is available on HUD's website at www.hud.gov and the Justice Department website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing.