Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 25, 2008

E.D. of New York Gives Green Light for Fair Housing Act Claim

Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit alleging that the Village has violated the Fair Housing Act by proposing a redevelopment plan that is expected to displace 21% of the Village’s Latino population while displacing only 1.2% of the Village’s White population. Although only 12.6% of the Village population is Latino the proposed redevelopment area has a Latino population of 56.2% that require low-cost housing.  As part of the redevelopment plan, it is alleged that the Village recruited a developer to purchase and renovate the subject property, a 54-unit apartment building where the Plaintiffs all resided.  The developer terminated all of the leases with the building tenants, requiring the tenants to move elsewhere, and it is expected that when the renovations are complete, the developer will seek an additional $500/month rent. The Plaintiffs also allege that the Village failed to follow its own Code when granting the required permits to the developer.  Further, it is alleged that the Village has been motivated by a desire to eliminate housing options for Latino day laborers.

 

Turning to the Village’s argument that the Plaintiffs lack standing because they cannot prove an injury that is traceable to the Village, the Magistrate Judge noted that the Plaintiffs have alleged that it was the Village, acting with discriminatory animus, who initiated the redevelopment plan and facilitated the entire process to this point.  Whether this is true, will depend on the facts of the lawsuit, and so the Court rejected the Village’s argument. The court next rejected the Village’s argument that because the nature of the relief sought is speculative, the Plaintiffs would not benefit even if they obtained an order compelling the Village to approve an affordable housing plan since none would be presented by the private sector. The Court distinguished these Plaintiffs from those in Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490 (1975) and Hope, Inc. v County of DuPage, 738 F.2d 797 (7th Cir. 1984) since in this case the Plaintiffs are not potential residents who desire affordable housing, but they were already living in affordable housing that was allegedly eliminated due to discriminatory actions of the Village. Although there was an early settlement agreement reached with some of the Plaintiffs, the Court said that this does not preclude the lawsuit since the Plaintiffs hace pled a particularized injury by the Village, that if remedied by the court, will bring them redress.

 

Turning to the Fair Housing Act claims, the Court found that the Plaintiffs sufficiently stated a cause of action under the theory of disparate treatment. Specifically, the Court noted that the complaint alleged discriminatory animus by the Village in its treatment of Latino day laborers, the unequal enforcement of its zoning laws, and for its role in the redevelopment plan and implementation.  While agreeing with the Village that the Fair Housing Act does not require a municipality to provide low income housing to a specific protected group, here, the allegation is that the Village intentionally eliminated low income housing to prevent Latinos from living at their former residences. Further, the Court found that the complaint does state a claim under the Fair Housing Act for disparate impact in that it alleges that the actions of the Village eliminated affordable housing that disproportionately impacts Latinos in need of such housing.

 

 

Rivera v. Incorporated Village of Farmingdale, 2008 WL 3367585 (E.D.N.Y. 7/8/2008).


Responses

  1. It would be satisfying to see these plaintiffs prevail, and the Village forced to back off its plans to extirpate the Latino population. But one sympathetic Magistrate Judge doth not a final judment make, and we all know that as the case moves up through the higer echelons of the federal judiciary and comes face-to-face with the Reagan and Bush see no evil, hear no evil appointees who dominate the federal bench, the plaintiffs will be put firmly back in their places by the even hand of justice.


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