FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 1994

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

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OBTAINS SETTLEMENT IN HOUSING DISCRIMINATION CASE AGAINST WILDWOOD, NEW JERSEY WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A city in southern New Jersey that allegedly used its housing code to keep out families with children, especially Hispanic families, has agreed to pay $75,000 in damages and change its maximum occupancy standards, the Justice Department announced today. The city of Wildwood, on the Atlantic shore, was accused of discriminating against the families by selectively utilizing a local ordinance that was so restrictive that in most instances it permitted only one person per bedroom. In the settlement, the city conceded that its ordinance adversely impacted families with children, especially Hispanic families, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. The city of 4,500 persons also conceded that it enforced the ordinance primarily against persons living in year-round rental units as well as those receiving public housing assistance. In today's settlement, the city agreed to replace its occupancy standards with the standards set forth in a national building code and New Jersey's occupancy code. The city also agreed to: ​ pay $10,000 in civil penalties and $65,000 in damages to any identified victims of the discriminatory practices; ​ train its employees responsible for matters relating to zoning and land use regulations - including the mayor and members of the city council - in fair housing requirements; ​ employ a fair housing counselor, fluent in English and Spanish, to investigate charges of housing discrimination, and provide counseling services for minorities and families with children who wish to live there. "This settlement underscores our continuing commitment to uncover and eliminate discrimination directed against families with children and based on national origin," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "This settlement warns all municipalities against attempting to use their powers to prevent individuals from occupying property that is large enough to accommodate their families." The settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in Camden, resolves a suit that the Justice Department brought against the city of Wildwood last March. The suit alleged that Wildwood and two of its housing inspectors violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against families with children, especially those of Hispanic origin. It claimed that the city enacted and selectively enforced a local occupancy ordinance which unduly limited the number of persons who may occupy a residential dwelling based on the size of the dwelling. The settlement follows a temporary court order issued last April granting a Justice Department request for emergency relief

to prevent further enforcement of the ordinance. At the hearing for emergency relief, the Justice Department provided evidence that Wildwood's occupancy restrictions far exceed those set by national building codes or the State of New Jersey. The Justice Department also demonstrated that portions of the local ordinance are so restrictive that it allows only one person per bedroom in a unit. Owner-occupied apartments as well as seasonal rentals, which constitute over half of the town's housing, have been virtually exempt from the town's enforcement efforts. Shortly after the court's order, the town agreed to stop enforcing the ordinance while the lawsuit was pending in federal court. Individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination in Wildwood should call the Justice Department at (202) 514-4713. Individuals who believe they may have been victims of housing discrimination anywhere else in the United States should call either the Justice Department or the Department of the Housing and Urban Development's Fair Housing Hotline at 1-800-669-9777. # # # 94-507