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HDP announces settlement in discrimination case

HOLYOKE Jamie Williamson, executive director of the Housing Discrimination Project, Inc. (HDP), a private, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting fair housing practices in central and western Massachusetts, announced the settlement of a discrimination case based on receipt of housing subsidy brought against Goran Investors, co-owners of Holyoke house in Holyoke, MA.

The announcement follows an agreement between both parties and notification of approval of the settlement by the Western District Housing Court of Massachusetts.

The plaintiffs in the case were a couple and an individual who sought housing at Holyoke House. While they attempted to secure housing a different times, all were told that they could not apply for the housing because they received Section 8 housing subsidies through a government funded housing agency known as HAP.

According to Eric Bove, legal director of the Housing Discrimination Project who represented the plaintiffs, "Massachusetts law protecting housing subsidy recipients from discrimination prohibits denial of housing based on the requirements of the housing program.

"Among the requirements of the Section 8 program is that the vouchers be administered by a particular housing agency, usually the one that provided the recipient with their initial voucher. Therefore, by not accepting the subsidies from HAP, Goran used the program requirement to discriminate against the plaintiffs."

A complaint, charging Goran investors with discrimination against housing subsidy recipients was filed with the Western District Housing Court in February of 2005.

The settlement of this case includes a total of $10,500 to be distributed among the plaintiffs. Goran Investors also agreed not to discriminate against housing subsidy recipients or members of any other protected classes, as well as provide fair housing training to all its owners and employees. In agreeing to the settlement, the defendant stipulated that the agreement does not constitute an admission of liability.

However, according to Bover, "This settlement makes it clear to landlords that they can't pick and choose which housing agency they are willing to deal with and which agencies they would rather avoid.

The Housing Discrimination Project has successfully investigated claims of housing discrimination in central and western Massachusetts for the past 15 years. The Housing Discrimination Project is funded in part by the Massachusetts bar Foundation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.