Nov. 16, 2006 – Civil-rights activists in New Orleans won a partial victory in the fight for fair housing practices this week.
In response to a lawsuit filed by the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center and property owner Wallace Rodrigue, Louisianaâ€™s Saint Bernard Parish agreed not to implement an ordinance restricting property owners from renting to anyone except "blood relatives."
"Itâ€™s not a final victory," Jon Hooks, attorney with Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told The NewStandard. Under the agreement, the ordinance will not be enforced while the case is pending. "This is by no means final, but in the meantime weâ€™re not going to have this [ordinance] as a barrier to people moving back to the New Orleans area," Hooks said.
As previously reported by TNS, the ordinance, approved by a 5-2 Parish Council vote in September, would have required single-family home owners to get special approval from the Council to rent to anyone outside the family.
Because properties in the parish are owned primarily by whites, plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued that in most cases these dwellings could only be rented to other whites â€“ a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. That law prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability or familial composition.
Parish councilors in support of the ordinance said there was no racial bias motivating their actions, but insist they were trying to restore homeowner neighborhoods and prevent real-estate developers from transforming the community into "large tracts of rental properties."
The case could still be litigated. Saint Bernard Parish has until December 31 to respond to the plaintiffsâ€™ complaint.