A settlement has been reached in a housing discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the Louisiana State Bond Commission, the department announced recently.
The department alleged in the suit that the commission violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by preventing financing for affordable housing for people with disabilities in 2009, when the commission enacted a moratorium to block funding for an affordable housing project known as Esplanade in New Orleans. Half of Esplanade's 40 units were to provide people with disabilities with supportive housing.
"We are very pleased to have worked with the Louisiana State Bond Commission to reach an agreement that will not only enable the Esplanade to be built, but that will also ensure that other affordable housing projects that include housing for persons with disabilities in New Orleans will not be subject to any moratorium," said Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.
The commission voted to lift the moratorium on affordable housing and approve funding for Esplanade before the settlement. As part of the settlement, which was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the commission agreed they would not make any further attempts to delay the construction of Esplanade or prevent any future consideration of affordable housing in New Orleans.
The city of New Orleans, which was named as a defendant in the original lawsuit, reached a settlement with the Department of Justice in April 2014. The city agreed to allow the construction of and allow all necessary permits for Esplanade as part of the settlement. Another provision of the settlement requires the city to build another 350 permanent supportive housing units, provide training to city officials in the area of fair housing, change zoning laws to accommodate affordable housing, and create an accommodation policy subject to federal government approval.
"Nondiscriminatory housing is a fundamental right of the citizens of New Orleans, and this settlement agreement continues the efforts to rebuild and improve a housing inventory ravaged by Hurricane Katrina," said Kenneth Allen Polite Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.