FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1997

CR (202) 616-2777 TDD (202) 514-1888

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SUES LOUISIANA APARTMENT BROKER COMPANY FOR DISCRIMINATING AGAINST AFRICAN AMERICANS WASHINGTON, D.C. The Justice Department today charged the owners and managers of a Metairie, Louisiana, apartment brokerage company with engaging in a pattern of discrimination against African-Americans and families with children. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans against Apartment and Home Hunters, Inc. (AHH), is based in part on evidence developed by a nationwide fair housing testing program conducted by the Department. The lawsuit alleges that AHH violated the Fair Housing Act by honoring the discriminatory instructions of property owners who refused to rent to AfricanAmericans or families with children by steering prospective tenants away from those owners' properties. "This suit is part of our ongoing effort to uncover and punish housing discrimination around the country," said Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Isabelle Katz Pinzler. "This case should put all housing providers on notice that we know how to detect such discrimination and will act forcefully wherever we do detect it." The suit charges that AHH managers Digna Hunter and Lori Mabile discriminated against African Americans and families with children because they would not allow those groups to rent certain properties. The two allegedly instructed the company's leasing agents to falsely tell African-American clients that no apartments meeting their description were available, when in fact they were. This practice was allegedly implemented to comply with the discriminatory wishes of property owners. The complaint asserts a similar pattern of discrimination against families with children. Since 1989, the Fair Housing Act has prohibited such discrimination against families with children. Under the Department's nationwide testing program, trained pairs of equally qualified black and white testers posing as prospective tenants inquire about available units. By comparing the experiences of the testers, investigators can determine whether minorities are treated less favorably than whites. Today's lawsuit is the first in the New Orleans area stemming from its testing program. Nationwide, the testing program has produces 38 federal cases resulting in settlements totaling more than $6.5 million in damages.

Evidence for today's case was also gathered through testing conducted by the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. "All persons should have an equal chance to find suitable housing, regardless of their color or whether they have children," said Eddie J. Jordan, U.S. Attorney in New Orleans. "This kind of systematic discrimination demands a vigorous law enforcement response." The complaint seeks an order preventing the complex from engaging in further discriminatory practices and requiring the defendants to pay damages to any individuals identified as victims of the discrimination. Under the Fair Housing Act, a court may also require each defendant to pay a civil penalty of up to $50,000. Individuals who believe they may have been the victims of housing discrimination at Apartment and Home Hunters should call the Housing Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department at 202-514-4713, the United States Attorney's Office at 504-680-3129, or the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center at 504-596-2100. # # # 97-394