FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT OF FAIR HOUSING LAWSUIT AGAINST THE BOROUGH OF BOUND BROOK, NEW JERSEY
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced a consent decree resolving a lawsuit filed against the Borough of Bound Brook, New Jersey for violations of the Fair Housing Act. Today’s agreement requires, among other things, the borough pay damages to victims, pay $30,000 in civil penalties and institute a non-discriminatory housing code inspection policy and redevelopment plan.
According to the complaint, filed today in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, the Borough of Bound Brook engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against Hispanic residents on the basis of national origin, race or color dating back to the early 1990's. The complaint alleges that borough officials stated, both publicly and privately, their intention to limit or remove the Hispanic population. Most significantly, the complaint alleges that since at least 2000, derogatory comments were posted on an Internet chat room, the Bound Brook Forum. At least one elected borough official allegedly used it to solicit addresses for home inspections, and responses to that solicitation were racially derogatory towards Bound Brook Hispanics.
The complaint further alleges that the borough actively undertook a number of measures to restrict housing opportunities for Hispanics, including: adopting a more stringent property maintenance code; selectively enforcing it and other zoning ordinances against Hispanic residents, and; adopting a redevelopment plan which would have displaced a significant number of Hispanic residents.
“We cannot tolerate a municipality purposefully discriminating against and segregating minorities in housing,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “Individuals should have the liberty to make their own housing decisions, regardless of their race. We will continue to aggressively prosecute incidents of housing discrimination.”
Under the consent decree, which remains subject to court approval, the borough will pay up to $425,000 in damages to any individual who may have been injured between March 1, 1996 through March 1, 2002 as a result of defendant’s discriminatory housing practices. The borough will also pay a civil penalty of $30,000 to the United States. In addition, the consent decree requires the borough to: adopt a new property maintenance code; hire a bilingual coordinator to assist Hispanic residents with housing issues; develop new policies and guidelines regarding code enforcement procedures; and create a new redevelopment plan.
Redressing discrimination in housing remains a top priority of the Civil Rights Division. Since 2001, the Division has filed 52 “pattern or practice” lawsuits under the Fair Housing Act, challenging discrimination on the basis of race, disability, sex, and other protected categories.
Individuals who believe that they may have been the victim of housing discrimination by the Borough of Bound Brook should call the Justice Department’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section at 1-800-896-7743, extension 97. Anyone wishing to report other unlawful housing discrimination should also contact the Department of Justice or HUD at 1-800-669-9777. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division, and the laws it enforces, is available at www.usdoj.gov.