A housing society based in Seattle today agreed to pay a settlement of $110,000 in order to avoid a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit which alleged that the society carried out a racially discriminatory policy towards African Americans and Indians looking to rent apartments with them.
The lawsuit came about following investigations by the Fair Housing Council of Washington, which looked into a number of complaints about the policies of Summerhill Place Apartments in Renton, nr. Seattle.
The results of the investigation, reported to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), indicated reason to suspect the society of operating policies of racial discrimination towards housing applicants of ethnic descent.
The HUD lawsuit charged that Summerhill’s owners and managers operated a policy of steering people of Indian ethnicity away from the complex, while Indian tenants already living in the residences were treated poorly compared to other residents. Some Indian families reported appliances not being repaired for weeks on end, even though other tenants would have such repairs carried out in a timely manner.
Families from other ethnic backgrounds, including African-Americans and Hispanics were also dissuaded from seeking accommodation at Summerhill.
Rather than fight the lawsuit, Summerhill Place LLC will pay compensation of $85,000 to those tenants and prospective tenants who were unfairly discriminated against. They will also pay a further $25,000 civil penalty to the government, and educate their staff on fair housing issues, while developing a policy of racial equality.
Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez was happy with the outcome today. Many families are already struggling to find adequate and affordable housing, and they can well do without being discriminated against. Let’s hope that today’s case will serve as a warning to any other operators that operate such dubious policies.
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