On October 17, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana issued an order holding St. Bernard Parish and the Parish Council in contempt for violating the terms of a 2008 Consent Order, which among other things enjoins them from violating the Fair Housing Act. Plaintiffs GNOFHAC and Provident Realty Advisors, Inc. filed a motion to enforce the Consent Order and hold St. Bernard Parish in contempt in January 2011, after St. Bernard Parish refused to renew Provident’s building permits for the development of four mixed-income housing developments. Seventy percent of the units will be affordable to low- and moderate-income households.
The Parish asserted that that it could not renew Provident’s building permits because of an amendment to the Parish’s Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO), which no longer permitted multi-unit dwellings on the four sites where Provident is building affordable housing developments in the Parish. Although the Parish subsequently renewed Provident’s building permits in February 2011, it then sought to stop construction on the four sites by issuing cease and desist orders, claiming that Provident’s renewed building permits were invalid, based on the 2010 zoning amendment.
Following briefing and an evidentiary hearing, the District Court held that the specific sequence of events leading up to the CZO presents ample evidence of intentional discrimination. When the previous ordinances were challenged, Defendants reverted to alternative legal strategies such as a referendum and a new CZO. The Court furthermore held that the CZO has a discriminatory effect on African-Americans and violates the Fair Housing Act.
Racial discrimination has been a clear and consistent theme throughout the course of GNOFHAC’s multi-year litigation against St. Bernard Parish, during which St. Bernard Parish and the Parish Council have repeatedly been held in contempt for violating the 2008 Consent Order.
GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry comments, “Judge Berrigan’s order of contempt is a major victory in the long struggle we’ve engaged in to eliminate illegal racial discrimination in housing in St. Bernard Parish. We remain committed to making sure that anyone, regardless of race, can live in St. Bernard Parish if they so choose.”
Relman, Dane, and Colfax PLLC represented GNOFHAC in this matter.
Click here for a copy of Judge Berrigan’s latest order in its entirety.
The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) is a private nonprofit organization. GNOFHAC is dedicated to eliminating housing discrimination and furthering equal housing opportunities through education, outreach, advocacy, and enforcement of fair housing laws across the metro New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas. The activities described in this release were privately funded.
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