HABC Celebrates the End of a Longstanding Lawsuit
Settlement agreement will continue to increase housing choices for vulnerable families
(Baltimore, MD – September 4, 2012) After extensive negotiations, a settlement agreement was reached to resolve the Thompson v. HUD lawsuit. This settlement ends nearly two decades of litigation and court-ordered restrictions. The Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) and the City of Baltimore worked cooperatively with both the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Plaintiffs to bring about a favorable resolution. A major facet of the settlement is that HABC’s nationally recognized Special Mobility Housing Choice Program (the “Special Mobility Program”), launched under the 1996 Partial Consent Decree (PCD) entered in Thompson, will continue to serve thousands of families, providing them with additional housing options. Over the years, this program has successfully assisted more than 1,800 families who have voluntarily chosen to move from areas of concentrated poverty in Baltimore City to communities of opportunity in Baltimore City and neighboring counties.
"After nearly two decades, Baltimore is now able to move forward, put this lawsuit behind us, and work with HUD to increase fair housing opportunities for low-income families," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "I want to thank HABC and HUD for working with the plaintiffs to reach a fair and honest settlement that will have a significant, positive impact on the Baltimore region's ability to promote fair housing and provide new opportunities for families."
The lawsuit originated in 1995 when current and former African-American residents of Baltimore City public housing filed a class action complaint against HUD, Baltimore City and HABC. The Plaintiffs alleged that the Defendants violated the Constitution of the United States, the Fair Housing Act and various civil rights statutes by racially segregating public housing and discriminating on the basis of race.
A portion of the Thompson case was resolved through the PCD in 1996. Under the PCD, HABC successfully demolished and redeveloped several high-rise family developments. The outcome of this massive effort includes Pleasant View Gardens, Towns of the Terraces, Heritage Crossing, Broadway Overlook and Albemarle Square. All, but one of these developments, combine public housing, market rate rentals and home ownership. Because these redeveloped sites contained fewer public housing units, the PCD also provided for the creation of public housing units in a number of privately owned and managed developments and the Special Mobility Program.
The continued Special Mobility Program under the settlement agreement will fund vouchers for up to 2,600 additional families over seven years, as well as provide high-quality mobility counseling to help them find housing options, prepare them for their moves, and provide ongoing support after they have moved. Other key components of the settlement agreement include offering incentives to developers for affordable housing development, developing an online housing locator, sponsoring a regional opportunity study and conducting Civil Rights reviews.
“HABC and the Rawlings-Blake Administration are deeply committed to fair housing and we are pleased that the issues resolved through the settlement of Thompson will increase choices for vulnerable families including building upon the success of the mobility program,” said HABC Executive Director Paul T. Graziano.
In January 2005, the U.S. District Court ruled that neither Baltimore City nor HABC were liable for the violations alleged by the Plaintiffs. As the following quote from the Court opinion indicates, it was reasonable for the City and HABC to focus its housing development efforts within Baltimore City due to jurisdictional limitations and limited resources. “The Court disagrees with Plaintiffs’ suggestions that Local Defendants should have directed their efforts beyond Baltimore City. The Court finds Local Defendants’ reasons for focusing their efforts primarily within the City, as opposed to considering options throughout the Baltimore MSA, understandable and reasonable. On balance, these policies were based upon choices made (in recent years by officials answerable to an African-American majority within the City) to use limited resources for the maximum benefit for all of the citizens of Baltimore City. The City government had no realistic options whereby it might have devoted its public revenues on projects outside of its jurisdiction by virtue of financial and political realities. It is perfectly obvious that, as a practical matter, Local Defendants did not have the ability to affect regionalization that Federal Defendants had.”
Even though the Court made a finding of no liability against the City and HABC, both are committed to providing fair housing choice, as evidenced by their significant roles in bringing about this settlement agreement.