Federal Judge Extends Consent Decree in St. Bernard Case; Parish to Rescind Discriminatory Ordinance

On February 28, 2011, the Honorable Judge Helen Berrigan issued an order to extend the Consent Order in the case of Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, et al vs. St. Bernard Parish, et al until December 31, 2011. Plaintiffs asked for an extension of the Consent Order in a February 24, 2011 status conference due to concerns over the Parish’s apparent attempts to block the construction of four mixed-income housing developments by Provident Realty Advisors. In her ruling, Judge Berrigan cited allegations that, “if true, indicate that the Parish is prepared to deviate from normal procedures in an effort to harass and delay Provident’s ongoing construction.” The Provident developments are funded using tax credits that mandate completion of the construction by the end of 2011.

In addition, on March 1, 2011, the St. Bernard Parish Council moved to rescind two hotly contested ordinances which the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) alleges are racially discriminatory. The first ordinance designed a burdensome Permissive Use Permit process concerning landlords’ ability to rent single-family homes. The second ordinance all but eliminated multi-family housing as an allowed use in the Parish zoning code. GNOFHAC alleges that both ordinances have a discriminatory impact on people of color attempting to rent homes in St. Bernard Parish.

During 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 Parish entered into a Consent Order with GNOFHAC which resolved the first multi-family moratorium and the blood relative ordinance. The second multi-family moratorium was rescinded after the Court found it violated the Fair Housing Act and a February 2008 Consent Order. In January, GNOFHAC filed a fifth motion for contempt against the Parish, alleging that St. Bernard has once again violated the Fair Housing Act and the terms of a February 2008 Consent Order. Judge 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.

GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry comments, “We are relieved that Judge Berrigan shares our concern over the viability of the mixed-income housing developments in St. Bernard and hope that the rescission of the two ordinances signal Parish officials’ intentions to finally comply with the mandates of the Fair Housing Act.”

Relman, Dane and Colfax PLLC represented GNOFHAC in this matter.

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Posted by decubingon 02/28/2011and categorized as Blog, Press Releases, Uncategorized