On January 14, 2011 the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) and Provident Realty Advisors filed a fifth Motion for Contempt alleging St. Bernard Parish has violated the federal Fair Housing Act and a February 2008 Consent Order.
In December 2010, Congress extended the placed in service dates for the tax credits that Provident needed to proceed with construction on an apartment complex in St. Bernard Parish. As a result, Provident attempted to continue construction on the mixed-income apartments. Provident, however, received notification from the Parish that it was in violation of the Parish’s zoning code because Parish officials changed its Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance in December 2009, such that Provident’s sites were no longer zoned to permit the development of multi-family housing.
According to the motion, “there is no lawful basis for Defendants’ current position, which bears all the hallmarks of ongoing intentional discrimination and is nothing more than yet another transparent attempt to stop Provident from building multi-family housing in St. Bernard Parish. The only thing that has changed since 2009 is the vehicle the Parish has chosen to block Provident. The intent and effect remain the same.”
St. Bernard’s recent actions to prevent Provident from proceeding with its multi-family housing developments are the latest in a long string of race-based attempts by St. Bernard Parish to block multi-family developments in the Parish. In the course of the multi-year litigation, GNOFHAC has successfully challenged St. Bernard’s two previous multi-family construction moratoria, and an ordinance that restricted the rental of single-family residences to those related by blood to the owner of the property. The Honorable Judge Ginger Berrigan has granted GNOFHAC’s three previous motions for contempt against the Parish. A fourth motion was ruled moot when the Parish voluntarily cancelled a referendum on a multi-family moratorium.
Under its latest motion, GNOFHAC requests that the court 1) hold St. Bernard Parish in contempt of court; 2) order that the Parish renew Provident’s building permits within 24 hours of the court’s order; 3) impose coercive sanctions for every day that the Parish does not meet the court’s deadline; 4) order the Parish to compensate GNOFHAC and Provident for damages, costs and fees associated with its contemptuous conduct; 5) order additional monetary sanctions against the Parish to deter future violations of the Consent Order and Fair Housing Act; 6) enjoin the Parish from further unlawfully interfering with Provident’s developments; and 7) retain jurisdiction over the Consent Order through December 31, 2011.
Relman, Dane and Colfax PLLC represented GNOFHAC in this matter.
James Perry, Executive Director of GNOFHAC, comments, “This is the fifth motion for contempt that we’ve had to file because the Parish has repeatedly violated the terms of a Consent Order they voluntarily entered into. We hope that the court will ensure equal housing opportunity in our region by granting the reasonable relief we seek.”
1-17-11 Download the press release here.
1-15-11 Read the full motion for contempt here.
1-14-11 Read the nola.com editorial “New attitude toward rentals” here.
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