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HUD charges South Dakota property owners with discrimination against resident in wheelchair
     (WASHINGTON, Aug. 03, 2015) -- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has charged the owners and landlords of an eight-unit apartment complex in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to allow a resident with disabilities to use a wheelchair in his apartment. HUD’s charge also alleges that the Salem Family Trust and Calvin L. Salem, trustee and manager of the property, refused to return the resident’s security deposit after he was forced to move out of his apartment. Read HUD’s charge.
     The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from making a rental unit unavailable because of disability, discriminating in the terms of a rental because of disability, making statements regarding a rental that indicate discrimination based on disability, or retaliating against anyone for exercising their fair housing rights.
     “Wheelchair users can never feel at home if they aren’t allowed to use the very thing they depend on for mobility,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD remains committed to enforcing the nation’s fair housing laws and creating greater housing opportunities for people with disabilities.” FULL STORY at realestaterama.com

Orthodox jewish tenants are suing LeFrank City
     (LEFRANK CITY, N.Y., Aug. 02, 2015) -- The Daily News reports that a group of Orthodox Jewish tenants at LeFrak City are suing the massive Corona housing complex, alleging religious discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.
     In 2012, the 20-building complex embarked on a huge renovation, adding lobby doors that only open with electronic keys, as opposed to traditional metal keys. Observant Jews are prohibited from "breaking or creating" an electric circuit on Shabbat and on a number of holy days, which means the "hundreds of Jewish families" that live in the complex cannot use the doors. The suit is being filed by residents Sulaymon Ibragimov and Murod Takhalov.
     The suit claims that tenants are forced to wait outside for someone to open the doors or call the elevators, and is calling for the installation of one door in every building that opens with a regular lock, as well as a "Shabbos elevator" in each building (or, a preprogrammed elevator that stops on every floor so that Orthodox tenants do not have to push buttons). FULL STORY at ny.curbed.com

Living Apart: How the government betrayed a landmark civil rights law
     (NEW JERSEY, July 29, 2015) -- It’s long been something of a slogan for President Obama and his administration: one’s ZIP code should not determine one’s future.
     This month, the administration announced an effort it said would put some muscle behind the slogan, saying it would enforce a new set of rules involving federally subsidized housing that require cities and counties to actively document and combat segregation in their communities.
     Julian Castro, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said in a statement that the rules “will give local leaders the tools they need to provide all Americans with access to safe, affordable housing in communities that are rich with opportunity.” FULL STORY at njtoday.net

Helpful hint from Julian Castro on how to desegregate the park cities
     (DALLAS, Texas, July 29, 2015) -- So excited earlier this month. We read that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and his boss, the president, are not the pushovers on fair housing we thought they were. Not anymore. Apparently, now they’re tough.
     Nine months ago it was looking pretty sad here. That’s when Castro, former mayor of San Antonio, was just taking the reins at HUD. Practically the first thing he did when he got into the office was gut a four-year federal housing investigation of Dallas.
     After schmoozing with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Castro kicked the pins from under his own HUD fair housing staff. They thought they had compiled a bullet-proof case against Dallas for misusing HUD money over the span of a decade to fund a sub rosa program of deliberate racial segregation.
     Nobody ever explained why a four-year probe and a tough letter of findings wound up in the circular file, but, anyway, who cares now? Castro and President Obama have unveiled a brand-new, get-tough, no-more-schmoozing, no more Mr. Nice Guy policy on fair housing. They say they will use super sophisticated new high-tech techniques to sleuth out racially segregated communities and then marshal various federal resources to work to overcome those patterns. FULL STORY at dallasobserver.com

Justice Department settles discrimination lawsuit with Biafora's Inc.
     (WASHINGTON, July 28, 2015) -- A new apartment complex with 100 wheelchair accessible units will be built in Morgantown as part of a settlement between the Justice Department and a Morgantown developer. Biafora's Inc. was accused of violating the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by building 23 complexes in West Virginia and Pennsylvania that were inaccessible to people with disabilities. The group, and several affiliated companies, have agreed to pay $205,000. They'll also make certain changes to fix the accessibility issues to some buildings. These include replacing or making sloped portions of sidewalks, installing cabinets in bathrooms and kitchens to provide room for wheelchairs and widening doorways. The defendants will also pay $180,000 to establish a settlement fund for the purpose of compensating individuals with disabilities who have been impacted by the accessibility violations and $25,000 as a civil penalty. FULL STORY at wdtv.com

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