NEW ORLEANS – The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) has settled a fair housing complaint filed with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and a federal lawsuit against Lakeview property-owner Jeff Crosby.
The HUD complaint and the federal lawsuit alleged that Crosby violated the federal Fair Housing Act by discriminating against African-Americans and families with children. As a result of the settlement, Crosby will pay $32,500 in damages to GNOFHAC and will turn over control of tenant selection for his rental properties to a real estate professional.
GNOFHAC uncovered the alleged discrimination during an investigation to ascertain the prevalence of race and familial status discrimination in the greater New Orleans area. The Fair Housing Act states that individuals are not to be denied housing opportunities based on race, color, national origin, religion, ability or familial status.
GNOFHAC’s investigation, conducted between February 2013 and February 2014, revealed that Crosby engaged in multiple steps of screening to restrict African-Americans and families with children from renting his properties. When advertising rentals, Crosby listed a phone number that led directly to voicemail. He consistently failed to return phone calls from undercover investigators with typically African-American names and dialects, whereas calls from investigators with white names and dialects were returned promptly.
When following up with white investigators, Crosby engaged in a second stage of screening to prevent families with children from renting his units. GNOFHAC’s investigators reported that during property showings Crosby stated, “Everybody is professional…Everybody gets screened, no kids.”
In addition to paying damages and engaging a professional property management company to select his tenants, the settlement requires that Mr. Crosby receive fair housing training, institute a non-discrimination policy, revise his rental criteria, place an equal housing opportunity logo on all advertisements, and submit to monitoring by HUD.
“While I absolutely did not intended to discriminate against anyone, I appreciate being able to reach an amicable resolution to the allegations with GNOFHAC,” says Crosby. “I am pleased we were able to reach an understanding resolving any prior practices and I look forward to ensuring full compliance with federal and state fair housing laws going forward. Each of us has a role to play in promoting fair housing in the New Orleans community and I will certainly do my part.”
A 2014 audit conducted by GNOFHAC showed that forty-four percent of African-Americans experience some form of discrimination when searching for housing in the greater New Orleans area. According to GNOFHAC executive director Cashauna Hill, “housing discrimination perpetuates segregation and widens existing economic, educational and health disparities that exist between African-American and white New Orleanians. We are pleased to have settled this litigation, and will continue working to ensure that all Louisianans have access to open and inclusive communities.”
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