The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against owners of three apartment complexes and their property manager in a suburb of Jackson, MS. The suit is the result of the property manager’s refusal to show available properties to African Americans and his comparison of one of them to a zoo animal.
The case arose out of LaFHAC’s regional investigation of housing discrimination in four Gulf South cities during late 2016 and early 2017: Jackson, New Orleans, Houston, and Dallas. You can read the full report here.
Throughout the four cities subject to LaFHAC’s regional investigation, African American testers experienced differential treatment at 53% of the properties tested, or 126 out of 240 tests, including:
50% of the time in Dallas,
60% of the time in Houston,
48% of the time in Jackson, and
57% of the time in New Orleans.
The alleged victims of discrimination were African American mystery shoppers—or testers—participating in LaFHAC’s regional
investigation. Their experiences seeking rental units were compared to the experiences of similarly qualified white testers. Black testers were
steered toward one of the three complexes, Oak Manor Apartments, but were either not informed of units in the other properties or were told they were unavailable even though their white counterparts were shown units in those properties the same day.
The investigation resulted in complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) against Stephen Maulding Sr., the owner of the three properties through a Mississippi Limited Liability Company, and his property manager, James Roe, in 2018. In September, HUD issued a charge, meaning that HUD investigators found reasonable cause to believe that the defendants engaged in housing discrimination at Oak Manor Apartments, 468 Place Townhomes, and Pearl Manor Apartments. The DOJ’s lawsuit followed.
According to the HUD determination, Mr. Roe also extensively questioned one of the black testers, who was employed at the time, about his finances, while encouraging a white tester who did not currently have a job to apply. He told another black tester, “I can’t put you at Pearl Manor. The old men would have a heart attack. They would be thinking that I had let the zoo out again,” but then informed the white tester who followed that she would be a great fit for the “nicer” Pearl Manor. He also stated to the white tester that he risked being fired by his boss if he wasn’t careful about who he put at Pearl Manor.
The broader investigation details similarly disturbing incidents and makes recommendations for each city. It can be found on LaFHAC’s website. Unfortunately, the lack of value we place on Black lives regularly shows up in our housing market. This investigation and our past reports have all found that these kinds of disrespectful and discriminatory practices are par for the course for Black people seeking a place to call home. Anyone who suspects they may have been discriminated against or witnessed discrimination should report their suspicions to the Fair Housing Action Center.