Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS
Posted by Elizabeth Koke , January 12, 2017
Lawsuit alleges blatant refusal to accept applicants living with AIDS and utilizing a government housing subsidy
Today, a client of the New York City HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) filed a federal lawsuit against Grenadier Realty Corp., a major New York real estate company with over 22,000 individual apartments, alleging housing discrimination that is prohibited by the federal Fair Housing Act and the New York City Human Rights Law. The lawsuit, Cruz v. Grenadier Realty Corp., alleges that the defendant placed the plaintiff on a waiting list for housing and then, a year later, announced that, as a matter of policy, it was no longer serving HASA clients, i.e., the recipients of government housing subsidies living with symptomatic HIV illness or AIDS. “I felt alone; I felt that there was no hope of getting a new home and ending my homelessness,” said Plaintiff Cruz, a 49-year-old woman living with symptomatic HIV illness or AIDS who was homeless at the time. New York City’s Fair Housing Justice Center then conducted an investigation that corroborated the plaintiff’s account of this discrimination.
HASA provides tens of thousands of New Yorkers with a housing subsidy to assist them in securing accommodations in order to avoid homelessness and the mortal threat that unstable housing poses, particularly for the immuno-compromised. In 2008, the City Council passed Local Law 10, prohibiting landlords and their agents from discriminating based on a prospective tenant’s lawful source of income, such as a HASA rent subsidy. “We hear every day about the homeless crisis in New York,” said Armen H. Merjian, Senior Staff Attorney at Housing Works, Inc. and counsel for Ms. Cruz along with Diane Houk of Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. “What we are not hearing about is the rampant source-of-income discrimination that is fueling the crisis, nearly a decade after the New York City Council expressly prohibited such discrimination.”
The defendant is currently facing a similar lawsuit brought by the Legal Aid Society in 2015 alleging source-of-income discrimination, and just last week, four homeless or formerly homeless women with rental subsidies filed a class action complaint alleging that defendant is continuing to discriminate against prospective renters based on source of income, seeking to intervene in the pending 2015 lawsuit.
The plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, along with an injunction prohibiting the defendant from discriminating on the basis of lawful source of income. The plaintiff also seeks to require the defendant, among other things, to undergo fair housing training and to adopt and post non-discrimination policies. The suit was filed in Brooklyn federal district court.
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