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Feds allege rental bias against Mich. families

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit Thursday against the owners and manager of three Michigan apartment complexes for allegedly discriminating against families with children.

Parkside East Apartments in East Lansing; Holt Manor Apartments in Holt; and Kelly Manor Apartments in Owosso are alleged to have refused to allow children in one-bedroom apartments, according to a lawsuit filed in Detroit.

The suit names the Bloomfield Hills-based companies that own the complexes as well as Bloomfield Hills resident Sudi Hopper, the rental agent for the three properties. Hopper declined to comment on the suit Thursday.

The allegations are based on evidence collected by the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan, which had testers posing as prospective residents contact the defendants’ offices and speak with Hopper about renting a one-bedroom apartment.

The testing revealed that Hopper did not allow single-parent households with a minor child to live in a one-bedroom apartment, but did allow households with two adults to rent such an apartment.

“Although housing discrimination against families with children has been illegal under the Fair Housing Act for more than 25 years, too many families still face such discrimination when they look for housing,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of fair housing laws that protect the rights of these families.”

U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan said the Fair Housing Act gives parents the right to decide what type of apartment is appropriate for their families.

“It is unlawful for landlords to substitute their judgment for that of a parent, and to turn people away from a one-bedroom apartment simply because they have a child. We hope that this complaint sends a message to landlords and renters that we are prepared to defend the rights of all families to fair treatment in housing,” she said.

The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the defendants, monetary damages for those harmed by the defendant’s actions and a civil penalty.