FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1997

CR (202) 616-2765 TDD (202) 514-1888

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OBTAINS $200,000 SETTLEMENT IN HOUSING DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The former owners and managers of three suburban Detroit apartment complexes agreed today to pay $200,000 to settle a housing discrimination lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice. The lawsuit, filed in October, 1995, and later joined by three families, alleged that the former owners and operators of three suburban Detroit apartment complexes violated the federal Fair Housing Act by systematically refusing to rent apartments to African Americans and restricting families with children to certain apartments. Under today's agreement the defendants will pay money to victims and take steps to prevent further discrimination. "To deny a person an apartment based on the color of his or her skin or because he or she has a family is intolerable," said Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Isabelle Katz Pinzler. The Michigan apartment complexes involved are: Marsten Apartments, a 48-unit apartment complex in Allen Park; Wellington Manor Apartments, a 64-unit apartment complex in Woodhaven; and Park Heights Apartments, a 72-unit apartment complex in Livonia. The defendants, who no longer own the complexes involved in the suit, will: pay $190,000 in damages to victims of discrimination and $10,000 in civil penalties to the government; advertise to locate additional victims of discrimination;

institute a training program on fair housing; and, set up new procedures and rules which prevent discriminatory practices at all complexes they presently own. The discrimination was discovered after trained pairs of black and white "testers" posing as prospective tenants inquired about rental units at Marsten Apartments. The investigation revealed that the manager told the black testers that no apartments were available, but shortly thereafter told white testers that apartments were available and offered to show them. After the suit was filed, the Department identified an African American family that had been wrongfully denied housing because of their race, and discovered that similar discriminatory practices had taken place at Park Heights Apartments and Wellington Manor Apartments. The lawsuit additionally alleged that the defendants had illegally restricted families with children to certain units at Marsten apartments. The Department identified two families with children who had suffered this type of discrimination. At the time that the discriminatory practices were taking place, the three apartment complexes were owned and managed by Santokh and Lorraine Labana, and by their corporations, Marsten Apartments, Inc. and Labana Management Company, Inc. These defendants do not presently own or manage any of the complexes in question, but do own two other apartment complexes in the Detroit area. Jerry and Lillian Padgett, the former managers of Marsten Apartments, were also named in the suit. "This lawsuit should send a firm message to housing providers both in the Detroit area and throughout the United States that we will not tolerate discrimination and that we will prosecute and punish those persons who refuse to provide fair and equal treatment," said Saul A. Green, the U.S. Attorney in Detroit, whose office prosecuted the case together with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Of the settlement, $50,000 is set aside to pay damages to persons who are identified through the advertising. Individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination at Marsten Apartments, Wellington Manor Apartments, or Park Heights Apartments, should call the United States Attorney's Office at 313-226-9792. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination in the Detroit area may also call the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit, at 313-963-1274, the United States Department of Justice, at 202-514-4713, or the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Fair Housing Hotline at 1800-669-9777.

Today's settlement resolves the eighth case brought in the Detroit Metropolitan area since the Justice Department began a nationwide fair housing testing program. The eight Detroit cases alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act to date have resulted in settlements totaling more than $1.9 million. Nationwide, the Justice Department has filed thirty-nine cases in fourteen cities under its fair housing testing program. ### 97-486