RALEIGH, April 28, 2017 – When fair housing advocates gather for Raleigh’s 14th Annual Fair Housing Conference on April 28, they will have much to celebrate: national Fair Housing Month, the federal Fair Housing Act’s 49th anniversary, and our nation’s continuing commitment to the principle of equal housing for all.
Advocates from Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Fair Housing Project will join the celebration, and will mark some milestones of their own: the Project’s sixth anniversary and the $5.25 million in relief for victims of housing discrimination it has won over those six years.
Launched in 2011 with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Legal Aid’s Fair Housing Project is the state’s only full-service fair housing enforcement organization. The Project provides legal representation to victims, conducts undercover fair housing testing, and provides training and education programs on fair housing law to community advocates, landlords, and local government officials, among others.
The Project has brought cases in federal and state courts, and initiated administrative proceedings before HUD, the North Carolina Human Relations Commission and local human relations commissions across the state.
The Project has a small number of full-time staff but makes a big impact. Most of the $5.25 million in relief for victims came from recent settlements of three high-profile cases involving allegations of systemic sexual harassment, disability rights or racial discrimination. The three cases are:
- The Fair Housing Project represented 16 women who had alleged that they experienced sexual harassment by employees of Four County Community Services, a non-profit organization running a subsidized housing assistance program in Scotland County. The settlement of the case in 2015 resulted in $1,070,000 in relief for the plaintiffs, as well as an additional $1,000,000 for other aggrieved persons represented by the U.S. Department of Justice in a related case. Learn more.
- As a result of fair housing testing, the Project discovered what it believed to be violations of the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements for new multifamily housing and filed an administrative complaint with HUD regarding SkyHouse apartment buildings in Raleigh, Charlotte and other cities. The parties settled in September 2016, with the respondents agreeing to provide ramps and other accessibility modifications upon request to tenants with disabilities, as well as to provide $1,800,000 to be used to make accessibility modifications for low-income tenants with disabilities in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Texas. Learn more.
- As a result of the Project’s lending testing program, it filed an administrative complaint with HUD regarding potential differences in treatment by Fidelity Bank based on race. As a result of the conciliation agreement reached in the case, Fidelity agreed to invest $1,000,000 over two years in low-income communities in which it operated. Learn more.
In addition to the millions of dollars secured for those impacted by fair housing violations, Legal Aid’s Fair Housing Project has helped dozens of people with disabilities obtain reasonable accommodations from their landlords, allowing them to have full access and enjoyment of their homes. The Project has also obtained agreements from three property management companies and landlords affecting hundreds of rental units in which formal reasonable accommodation policies were adopted to ensure that the properties comply with federal and state fair housing law.
North Carolinians seeking information about their rights under the federal Fair Housing Act or who believe they are a victim of housing discrimination can call the Project’s statewide toll-free helpline at 1-855-797-FAIR (3247). All conversations are completely confidential.
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Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Our Fair Housing Project works to eliminate housing discrimination and to ensure equal housing opportunity for all people through education, outreach, public policy initiatives, advocacy and enforcement. The Project is supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program. Learn more at LegalAidNC.org and FairHousingNC.org.