Fair Housing Month Update #2: Fair Housing includes Protections for Group Homes for People with Disabilities

Photograph of a man and a woman with Down Syndrome playing with a dogBy Guest Blogger Bryan Greene, General Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

At the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we recognize that group homes often provide people with disabilities important opportunities to live in mainstream community settings.  That’s why we are committed to keeping neighborhoods open to group homes for people with disabilities, in accordance with the Fair Housing Act.

Earlier this month, we announced a $90,000 settlement reached with the seller of a house in Worcester, Massachusetts, the real estate brokerage firm Coldwell Banker, and the law firm Bowditch & Dewey LLP, resolving allegations that they violated the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition against discriminating against people with disabilities.

In this case, a prospective buyer alleged that the seller recorded a restrictive covenant after learning that the buyer intended to rent the property to a nonprofit organization that provides supportive housing for people with disabilities.  The seller, who was the executor of the owner’s estate and lived next door to the property, was an attorney with Bowditch & Dewey LLP.  He allegedly enlisted a fellow attorney from his law firm to record a restrictive covenant that prohibited the use of the property for a group home.  His real estate agent, an independent contractor for Coldwell Banker, allegedly conveyed the restrictive covenant to the buyer’s real estate agent.  The buyer said this caused him to withdraw from the sale.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the sale of a home and in other housing-related transactions.

We are pleased to have obtained a settlement that includes $78,000 for the buyer and $12,000 for the buyer’s real estate agent.  The settlement also includes provisions to further the public interest.  Bowditch & Dewey will perform 200 hours of pro bono legal work related to the promotion of fair housing rights and disability rights.  Both Coldwell Banker and Bowditch & Dewey will have employees and agents receive fair housing training.

April is Fair Housing Month, when we try to raise awareness about discrimination in housing.  If you have experienced or witnessed housing discrimination, we encourage you to report it by calling your local HUD office or filing a complaint online.  Please visit http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/housing_discrimination for more information.

Bryan Greene is the General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In this position, he is charged with overseeing the policy direction and operational management of this 600-person office. Under his leadership, HUD has pursued large-scale high-profile cases that address systemic discrimination and provide widespread relief. Mr. Greene has devoted his professional career to fighting housing discrimination and promoting diverse, inclusive communities.

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