|HUD No. 23-073
HUD Public Affairs
April 10, 2023
HUD FAIR HOUSING PARTNERS REACH $3 MILLION SETTLEMENT WITH CALIFORNIA HOUSING PROVIDERS RESOLVING ALLEGATIONS OF HOUSING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a groundbreaking $3 million settlement reached by two of its fair housing enforcement partners, the State of California Civil Rights Department (CRD) and Project Sentinel. The settlement resolves allegations that Vasona Management, Inc., a California property management company, and more than thirty apartment complex owners discriminated against families with children at more than forty-eight apartment complexes throughout the Bay Area by prohibiting any outdoor play activities and requiring parents to supervise children under the age of 14 in all common areas.
“Under this Administration, we are not just talking the talk on discrimination enforcement, we are taking action,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “Everyone in this country has the right to feel safe at home and we will do everything in our power to ensure individuals and families receive all the protections they are provided under the law.”
“This settlement is a victory for families everywhere and provides substantial relief for affected tenants,” said Kevin Kish, Director of the California Civil Rights Department. “Families with children are entitled to the same access, benefits, and enjoyment of their housing as all others. My office is grateful to our federal and community partners for their collaboration and commitment to ensuring all Californians have equal access to homes where they and their families can thrive.”
Under the Fair Housing Act and substantially equivalent California laws like the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Unruh Civil Rights Act, it is unlawful for housing providers to discriminate because of familial status, including families with children under the age of 18. This includes imposing different terms or conditions on families because they have children under the age of 18, making discriminatory statements, and enforcing overly restrictive rules and policies that discourage or prohibit families with children from enjoying their homes as in this complaint.
“It is illegal for housing providers to impose discriminatory policies regarding children’s use of common areas,” said Demetria L. McCain, HUD's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “This is a perfect example of how strong collaborations between HUD and public and non-profit fair housing enforcement organizations can result in meaningful and high-impact settlements, improving the lives of all people protected by the Fair Housing Act.”
On February 14, 2023, CRD, the state agency charged with enforcing California’s civil rights laws and a participant in FHEO's Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP), announced reaching a consent decree resolving a systemic fair housing lawsuit against Vasona Management Inc. and apartment complex owners for discrimination against families with children. This $3 million settlement came as a result of an investigation and the filing of a complaint by Project Sentinel, a non-profit organization in the Bay area that develops and promotes fairness and equity in housing for all persons.
In 2017, Project Sentinel first alerted HUD Region IX FHEO of allegations of familial status discrimination by the property management company and the owners of one apartment complex. HUD Region IX FHEO filed the complaint and, as required by the Fair Housing Act, referred the complaint to CRD for investigation. In 2018, the CRD Director filed another complaint on behalf of a group of aggrieved families alleging that the property management company and several additional apartment complex owners throughout the San Francisco Bay Area violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Unruh Civil Rights Act by prohibiting any outdoor play activities and requiring parents to supervise children under the age of 14 in all common areas.
Project Sentinel receives grant funds under HUD’s Private Enforcement Initiative through the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP). Fair housing organizations that receive funding through FHIP carry out enforcement, education, and outreach activities to assist people who believe they have experienced housing discrimination and make them aware of their rights under the Fair Housing Act.
Under the consent decree resolving this case, the respondents will pay $3 million dollars to aggrieved families and will implement corrective measures over five years. These measures include public interest relief to help prevent future discrimination, including revising its rules and approval procedures, distributing brochures to tenants about their rights, creating and maintaining policies to prevent discrimination and report discrimination, and annual training. CRD will monitor compliance with the decree.
Tenants who lived with children under the age of 18 at one of the properties involved in this settlement from April 16, 2016, to July 1, 2019, may be eligible for relief and should contact the State of California Civil Rights Department at vasona@calcivilRights.ca.gov. Please refer to CRD’s official Press Release for a list of properties included in the settlement and full details of the proposed consent decree.
Individuals who believe they have experienced discrimination in housing may file a complaint by contacting HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (Federal Relay Service).