[StBernard] Federal judge rules against St. Bernard Parish in multi-family housing lawsuit

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Mar 26 16:06:42 EDT 2009

Federal judge rules against St. Bernard Parish in multi-family housing
by Chris Kirkham, The Times-Picayune
Thursday March 26, 2009, 9:55 AM
A federal judge has ruled in favor of a fair housing group that claimed a
St. Bernard Parish building ban unfairly discriminated against minorities
trying to rent in the parish.

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan has ordered the parish to lift its
moratorium on construction of multi-family housing, paving the way for a
Dallas developer to begin construction of four 72-unit mixed-income
apartment complexes in Chalmette.

In the court order, issued last night, Berrigan cited plaintiffs' arguments
that the housing ban would have a disparate impact on African-Americans. She
noted several statistics from an expert witness brought on by the housing
group: that African-Americans are 85 percent more likely to live in
buildings with more than five units than whites, and that African-Americans
are twice as likely as whites to live in rental housing.

Berrigan also noted that the building ban had a "striking" similarity to a
previous building ban enacted after Hurricane Katrina and the parish's
"blood relative" rental ordinance, which required homeowners to obtain
Parish Council approval in order to rent their homes to anyone who was not a
blood relative.

The current suit is a reincarnation of a previous lawsuit filed by the
Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center over the 2006 "blood
relative" rental ordinance. The parish eventually dropped the blood relative
clause and the case was settled, but the fair-housing group now argues that
the new housing ban, enacted last September, limits affordable rental
housing in the mostly white parish.

Provident Realty Advisors, a Dallas real estate development group trying to
build four mixed-income apartment complexes in the parish, joined the case,
saying the building ban jeopardizes federal financing for the project.

Berrigan largely agreed with a racial impact analysis conducted by the
housing center's expert witness, sociologist Calvin Bradford.

"They evidence repeated attempts to restrict certain types of housing in a
parish whose housing stock, along with other structures, was largely
obliterated," Berrigan wrote. "As was shown by Dr. Bradford ... the type of
housing restricted or forbidden is disproportionately utilized by

Parish officials had argued that the building ban was needed to prevent
dense developments such as Village Square, a blighted cluster of Chalmette
apartment complexes that fell into disarray in the years before Hurricane

In her order, Berrigan ordered St. Bernard to stop enforcing the housing
moratorium and immediately repeal it. Berrigan will consider any damages,
including attorney's fees, at a future hearing.

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