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H.U.D. Settles Richmond Discrimination Complaint

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Settlement requires reforms to Richmond’s maintenance code enforcement, fair housing practices, and services to limited English proficient residents.

A civil rights complaint filed last year with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) by Latino mobile home park residents against the city of Richmond was resolved last week by agreement between HUD and the parties. The agreement ends a year-long investigation by HUD into allegations that Richmond unfairly targeted the largely Latino-occupied mobile home communities for unprecedented, intensive maintenance code enforcement and that the city refused to offer interpretation or translation as required by federal law. Under the agreement, Richmond will pay $30,000 in damages to the complainants and will take numerous steps to ensure future compliance with the federal Fair Housing Act, to provide meaningful access to city services in Spanish and other languages, and to provide assistance to mobile home park residents affected by its code enforcement activities.

“We are very pleased with this resolution to the HUD complaint,” according to Phil Storey, attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond, who represented the residents along with the law firm of Crowell & Moring in Washington, D.C. “The agreement has teeth, so we are confident that it will make a real difference in the way the city deals with mobile home park residents, immigrants, and other minorities going forward in terms of fair housing rights and language access.”

The agreement will remain in force for four years, during which the city of Richmond will be subject to HUD oversight and must submit regular compliance reports to the agency. Some of Richmond’s obligations under the agreement include: performing a new analysis of impediments to fair-housing choice and ensuring that its use of funding from HUD addresses those impediments, including in mobile home parks; regularly training the staff of key departments to protect fair-housing rights and to provide interpretation and translation services to city residents free of charge; posting notices in city offices informing people of the availability of free interpretation upon request; ensuring that city websites and telephone voice response systems are available in Spanish as well as English; appointing a Fair Housing Compliance Officer and a Language Access Coordinator, who will oversee and report regularly to HUD on the city’s compliance with the terms of the agreement.

“The reach of the HUD agreement is very good for the residents of mobile home parks, but also for immigrants and other vulnerable people throughout Richmond,” says Cliff Zatz, partner with Crowell & Moring, which provided pro bono representation on the case. “This is a good example of how federal agencies like HUD work to protect people’s civil rights.”

Resources

HUD Richmond Compliance Agreement (PDF)
HUD Richmond Acuerdo (Spanish) (PDF)
Press Release (PDF)
Aviso de Prensa (PDF)

Media Coverage

Richmond to hire fair housing officer, pay additional $30K in 2nd trailer park bias settlement (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/4/16)

Richmond Fair Housing Lawsuit Settles

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Future code enforcement to be more responsive to vulnerable residents’ needs; language access plan to help City residents access services.

Thirty-three current and former mobile home park residents have reached a negotiated settlement to their housing discrimination lawsuit against the City of Richmond. The residents, represented pro bono by the Legal Aid Justice Center and the law firm of Crowell & Moring LLP, had alleged that an aggressive housing code enforcement campaign violated their civil rights. Under the terms of the settlement, the City of Richmond will institute policies that will help minimize the displacement of mobile home residents in future enforcement activities and will better serve residents who are not fluent in English.

“This settlement is a positive outcome for our clients and for all mobile home park residents in the City of Richmond,” said Marie Diveley, Crowell & Moring senior counsel. “The City has agreed to take important steps that will not only benefit vulnerable mobile home park residents, but will also ensure that limited English speakers can access City services without unnecessary language barriers.”

The suit, which was filed in federal court in Richmond last August, alleged that the City violated the civil rights of the residents by targeting mobile home parks, where residents are mainly Latino, for aggressive code enforcement with the expectation that scores of vulnerable families would likely be displaced. According to the lawsuit, the City also refused to provide adequate interpretation and translation services for the limited English proficient residents, in violation of federal civil rights laws.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement the City will: work with a non-profit partner organization to assist mobile home park residents in addressing maintenance code violations prior to park-wide inspections; provide notices of code violations and appeal forms in Spanish to residents who are proficient in Spanish but not English; institute a language-access plan pursuant to federal civil rights guidelines and train City employees on their obligations under the plan; arrange for Fair Housing Act training for certain departments of City government; and provide modest monetary assistance to the plaintiffs, for repair or relocation, and to assist more generally with repairs in mobile home parks. With the agreement, the City also acknowledges that mobile homes play an important role in the affordable housing supply of Richmond.

“This settlement is the culmination of a long process of negotiation to address serious concerns on both sides,” according to Phil Storey, the Legal Aid Justice Center’s lead attorney on the case. “We are pleased that the City and the residents were able to reach a mutually agreeable resolution, thanks to assistance from Mark Rubin and VCU’s Center for Consensus Building.”

Resources

Press Release (PDF)

Aviso de Prensa (PDF)

Lawsuit (PDF)

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