FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT
IN ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO HOUSING BIAS LAWSUIT
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced the settlement of a race and familial status discrimination lawsuit against the owners and managers of twelve Albuquerque, New Mexico apartment complexes. Fair Plaza Associates, its general partner, as well as three rental agents have agreed to pay $120,000 to settle claims that they engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
According to the complaint, the defendants allegedly refused to rent an apartment to a man with a small child, and that they wrongfully evicted a white tenant and his African-American fiancée because of her race.
The Government probed the allegations through the use of fair housing testers - individuals who pose as potential renters for purposes of gathering information about possible discriminatory practices in the rental of apartments. The complaint further alleged that the defendants’ responses to inquiries about housing availability differed based on the race of the tester, and that they explicitly discouraged testers with children from renting. In some instances, the defendants stated that in some apartments children simply were not allowed.
“Being able to secure housing without regard to one’s race or familial status is central to the ideal of equal opportunity,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “No landlord can dictate where a family lives simply on the basis of their race or children. The Justice Department is committed to vigorously opposing such discrimination.”
Under the agreement, the defendants will pay $110,000 to compensate victims of their discrimination at any of the twelve apartment complexes they own or manage; pay a $10,000 civil penalty to the United States Government; as well as and establish and follow non-discriminatory application and tenancy procedures. The agreement remains subject to court approval.
This lawsuit was referred to the Justice Department by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), after complaints filed by New Mexico Legal Aid revealed a possible pattern or practice of race and familial status discrimination.
“Housing discrimination, no matter what form it takes, strips individuals and families of the opportunity to freely choose where they want to live,” said Carolyn Peoples, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “We applaud the Department of Justice's efforts to protect the fair housing rights of every resident of this nation.”
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or familial status (having children under 18 years old). Since January 2001, the Justice Departments Civil Rights Division has filed 102 Fair Housing Act cases, including fifty-three based on race and/or familial status.
Individuals who believe that they may have been the victim of housing discrimination at Fair Plaza Apartments; Casa Del Rey Norte, Sur & Oeste; La Hacienda Norte, Sur & Este; Playa Del Sol Apartments; Whitehouse Apartments; Graceland Apartments; El Pueblo or El Pueblo II Apartments should call the Justice Department's Housing and Civil Enforcement Section at 1-800-896-7743, Extension 996. Anyone wishing to report other unlawful housing discrimination should also contact the Department of Justice or HUD at 1-800-669-9777. For more information about the Civil Rights Division, and the laws it enforces, go to <http://www.usdoj.gov/crt>.