HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) announced on April 10 that it had reached a $3 million settlement regarding a complaint about housing discrimination against families with children. The complaint was brought by the State of California’s Civil Rights Department (CRD) and Project Sentinel. The settlement resolves allegations that Vasona Management, Inc., a California property management company, and more than 30 apartment complex owners discriminated against families with children at more than 48 apartment complexes throughout the San Francisco Bay Area by prohibiting any outdoor play activities and requiring parents to supervise children under the age of 14 in all common areas.
Title VI of the “Civil Rights Act of 1968” (also referred to as the “Fair Housing Act”) prohibits housing discrimination against members of the act’s “protected classes,” which include members of groups defined by race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, and familial status (e.g., families with children). In its announcement, FHEO explained that discrimination based on familial status, as it is specifically defined in California’s “Fair Employment and Housing Act” (FEHA) and “Unrah Civil Rights Act,” includes imposing different terms or conditions on families because they have children under the age of 18, making discriminatory statements, and enforcing overly restrictive rules and policies that discourage or prohibit families with children from enjoying their homes.
CRD, a participant in FHEO’s Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP), announced that it had reached a consent decree on February 14, 2023, that resolved a systemic fair housing lawsuit against Vasona Management Inc. and apartment complex owners for discrimination against families with children. The $3 million settlement is the result of an investigation and complaint filed by Project Sentinel, a nonprofit organization in the Bay Area that develops and promotes fairness and equity in housing for all. Project Sentinel receives funds under FHEO’s Private Enforcement Initiative through the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP). Fair housing organizations that receive funding through FHIP carry out enforcement, education, and outreach activities to assist people who think that they have experienced housing discrimination.
In 2017, Project Sentinel first alerted HUD’s Region IX FHEO of allegations of familial status discrimination by the property management company and the owners of one apartment complex. HUD Region IX FHEO filed a complaint and, as required by the Fair Housing Act, referred the complaint to CRD for investigation. In 2018, CRD filed another complaint on behalf of a group of families alleging that Vasona and several additional apartment complex owners throughout the Bay Area violated FEHA and the Unruh Civil Rights Act by prohibiting any outdoor play activities and requiring parents to supervise children under the age of 14 in all common areas.
Vasona will pay $3 million to aggrieved families. Vasona will also implement corrective measures over five years, including revising its rules and approval procedures, distributing brochures to tenants about their rights, creating and maintaining policies to prevent discrimination and report discrimination, and instituting annual training. CRD will monitor compliance with the decree.
Individuals who think they have experienced discrimination in housing may file a complaint by contacting FHEO at 800-669-9777 or 800-877-8339 (for the Federal Relay Service).
Read the FHEO announcement at: https://bit.ly/3ME3Bmk