FOR THE DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Civil Action Number: 396 CV 01118 (AHN)
HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE TOWN
OF MILFORD, and CITY of
- This action is brought by the United States of America to enforce the provisions of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., and pursuant to Section 814(a) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a)
- This Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).
- Defendant Housing Authority of the Town of Milford ("Housing Authority") is a municipal corporation established pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. §8-40 and located within the District of Connecticut. It is a public housing authority receiving federal funds for development and operation of public housing pursuant to the United States Housing Act of 1937, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1437 et seq. It operates under the direction of a five member Board of Commissioners.
- Defendant City of Milford ("City") is a political subdivision of the State of Connecticut located within the District of Connecticut. The Mayor of the City is the head of the City's executive branch, and the Board of Aldermen are the City's legislative branch. The Mayor of Milford is responsible for appointing the members of the Board of Commissioners of the Housing Authority. Both the Mayor and the Board of Aldermen have responsibility for the general welfare of the City.
- According to the 1990 Census, the City of Milford has a population of 49,938, of whom 731 (1.5%) are African American and of whom 1,154 (2.3%) are Hispanic. The two largest cities in the area, Bridgeport and New Haven, have larger minority populations: New Haven with a total population of 130,474, is over 35% African American and 13% Hispanic, and Bridgeport with a total population of 141,686 is over 25% African American and 26% Hispanic.
- In March 1991, the Housing Authority received a commitment from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fund the development of a family public housing project to consist of approximately twenty-nine units. Following difficulties in obtaining approval to develop an appropriate site for such a project, the Housing Authority in February 1995 sought approval from HUD to change the use of these funds to acquisition of existing housing for a so-called scattered site program. HUD formally approved this request in or about march 1995.
- Consistent with this approval, the Housing Authority took steps to operate a scattered site housing program, including proceeding with plans to purchase approximately thirty one and two-family houses in Milford which would be rented to families eligible for such a program under HUD regulations. The Housing Authority intended to endure that all applicants accepted for the program would be working families who would have undergone a police check and home visits before being accepted.
- The houses to be used in the scattered site program are dwellings within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
- As of August 1995, a majority of the persons on the Housing Authority waiting lists for subsidized housing were African-American or Hispanic, and a majority of persons on the waiting lists were from Bridgeport or New Haven. In light of the composition of the waiting lists and the Housing Authority's intentions regarding selecting tenants for the scattered site program, it was anticipated that there would be a higher percentage of minority residents in the scattered site housing program than in the City of Milford generally.
- Between March and August 1995, the Housing Authority proceeded with the development of the scattered site housing program, including selecting a realtor to assist the Housing Authority find appropriate housing, obtaining necessary documentation regarding the project from the City, and issuing regular notices to the public about its efforts. These activities culminated on August 28, 1995, when the Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners formally approved the use of the HUD funds to purchase the first of three houses in the scattered site program.
- Between august 28, 1995, and September 12, 1995, some residents of the City engaged in a public campaign to force the Housing Authority to abandon the project. As part of their campaign, they asserted that the housing would be occupied by persons from Bridgeport and New Haven and, in particular, by residents of a public housing project in Bridgeport knows as Father Panik Village, which was or had been inhabited almost entirely by persons of color.
- On September 11, 1995, the Board of Aldermen of the City of Milford met and considered the Housing Authority's plans to proceed with the scattered site housing program. At this meeting, they unanimously passed a resolution that "demand[ed]" that the MHA "immediately rescind all activities" related to the purchase of the first four houses, "immediately cease and desist" any further planning efforts, and "immediately take any and all steps necessary to officially and permanently remove Milford from the federal Scattered Site Housing Program." A copy of this resolution is attached to this complaint as Exhibit A.
- On September 12, 1995, the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners convened and unanimously enacted a resolution to "cease the developments of [the scattered site] program." In doing so, the Board of Commissioners noted that it was taking this action because the Mayor and Board of Aldermen "have unanimously and strongly urged and demanded" that the Housing Authority Board do so. In compliance with this resolution, the Housing Authority has informed HUD that it intends to return the funds for the scattered site housing program to HUD and that it does not intend to take any other action to develop such a program. Through these and other actions, the Housing Authority has terminated the scattered site housing program in Milford.
- Based on the public assertions made between August 28, 1995, and September 12, 1995, including those referenced in paragraph 11 above, the Board of Aldermen, the Mayor, and the Board of Commissioners were aware that persons contesting the scattered site program believed that it would be occupied by African-Americans and Hispanics and opposed it, in signification part, for that reason. In enacting their respective resolutions and taking the other actions which resulted in the termination of the program, the City and the Housing Authority were responding to this opposition. The Housing Authority had no reason to attempt to withdraw from the program, and the City had no reason to demand that the Housing Authority withdraw from the program, other than to appease the neighborhood opposition.
- The City, by engaging the Resolution described above and engaging in other activities to pressure and force the Housing Authority to halt its efforts to proceed with the scattered site program, has:
- Made the scattered site housing units unavailable and other wise denied the units to eligible tenants, based on the race, color, and/or national origin of the anticipated residents of these dwellings, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a); and
- Coerced, intimidated, threatened, or interfered with persons in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of their having exercised or enjoyed, or having aided or encouraged any other persons in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by Sections 803, 804, 805, or 806 of the Fair Housing Act, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3617.
- In halting its efforts to proceed with the scattered site housing program and attempting to withdraw from the program, the Housing Authority made housing unavailable and otherwise denied dwelling units to eligible tenants, based on the race, color, and/or national origin of the anticipated residents of these dwellings, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a).
- The conduct of the Housing Authority and the City described above constitutes:
- A pattern and practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.; and
- A denial to a group of persons of the rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., which raises an issue of general public importance.
- As a result of the defendants' conduct described above, there may be persons who have been victims of defendants' discriminatory housing practices and may have suffered damages as a result of defendants' conduct described above. Such persons are aggrieved persons as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i).
- Defendants' conduct described above was intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of others.
WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter an order that:
- Declares that defendants' policies and practices, as alleged herin, violate the Fair Housing Act;
- Mandates that defendants reinstate the scattered site housing program, including taking all steps necessary to purchase and rent appropriate housing and operating the program in a non-discriminatory manner;
- Enjoins defendants, their officers, employees, and agents, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them, from:
- Discriminating because of race, color, or national origin against any persons in any aspect of the rental of a dwelling;
- Failing or refusing to notify the public that dwellings owned or operated by defendants are available to all persons on a nondiscriminatory basis;
- Failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to restore, as nearly as practicable, the victims of defendants' unlawful practices to the position they would have been in but for the discriminatory conduct; and
- Failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to prevent the recurrence of any discriminatory conduct in the future and to eliminate, to the extent practicable, the effects of defendants' unlawful housing practices.
- Awards such damages as would fully compensate each persons aggrieved by defendants' discriminatory housing practices for injuries caused by defendants' pattern and practices four injuries caused by defendants' patter and practice of discriminatory conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B);
- Awards each person aggrieved by defendants' pattern or practice of discrimination punitive damages because of the intentional and willful nature of defendants' conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B); and
- Assess a civil penalty against each defendant in the amount authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C), in order to vindicate the public interest.
The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.
DEVAL L. PATRICK
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
PAUL F. HANCOCK
Chief, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
BRIAN F. HEFFERNAN KENNETH H. ZIMMERMAN
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division
Department of Justice
P.O. Box 65998
Washington, D.C. 20035-5998
United States Attorney
Assistant United States Attorney
915 Lafayette Blvd., Rm #309
Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604
203-579-5596 > >