The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sued St. Bernard Parish, LA, on January 31, for limiting housing opportunities for African-Americans after Hurricane Katrina. DOJ alleges that St. Bernard Parish “violated the Fair Housing Act when it took repeated actions to limit the availability of multi-family and rental housing in the parish.” On the same day, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) and individual St. Bernard Parish property owners also sued the Parish alleging that, “the permissive use permit process (PUP process) adopted by the Parish in 2006 is racially discriminatory in violation of the Fair Housing Act.”
Most of the housing in St. Bernard Parish, which is adjacent to Orleans Parish where New Orleans is located, was destroyed after Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, the parish took repeated steps to retain pre-Katrina demographic characteristics, such as implementing a multifamily housing moratorium to limit housing opportunities for African-American and other minority renters. Further, in 2006, the parish prohibited homeowners from renting out single-family homes without obtaining a permissive use permit from the parish.
The suits filed on January 31 do not mark the first time St. Bernard Parish has been sued for housing discrimination. GNOFHAC repeatedly has challenged St. Bernard Parish’s policies that discriminate against minority renters (see Memo, 3/27/09). In October 2011, a district court ruled that St. Bernard Parish had intentionally, and continually, discriminated against African-Americans seeking rental housing in the parish after Katrina.
“We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice has taken such a strong stance against racial discrimination in housing by filing suit against St. Bernard Parish, but regret that such drastic action has been necessary. Everyone should have an opportunity to choose where they want to live regardless of their race and we sincerely hope that new Parish leadership will take the appropriate steps necessary to end discrimination on the part of the Parish once and for all,” said GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry in a press release.
DOJ’s press release is available at: www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/January/12-crt-143.html
GNOFHAC’s press release is available at: www.gnofairhousing.org/2012/02/01/fair-housing-center-and-u-s-department-of-justice-file-suit-against-st-bernard-parish-over-racial-discrimination-in-housing/