Successful Defense of Public Housing Authority Accused of Discrimination Against Disabled Persons Under the ADA and FHA.
In a case that was closely watched by other Public Housing Authorities (PHAs), we obtained a defense verdict after a six-day jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio where we defended a PHA accused of discrimination against disabled persons under the ADA and FHA.
The dispute surrounded the PHA’s failure to apply to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers as requested by a developer. The plaintiff claimed that the PHA arbitrarily, capriciously, intentionally, and based on discriminatory animus blocked funding and financing for 60 units of affordable housing for veterans, most of whom were disabled, which stood in violation of the ADA and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA). For background, the PHA’s administrative plan required it to issue a RFP. The developer argued the PHA should have amended its administrative plan to allow it to choose a developer and that the PHA’s refusal to apply for VASH vouchers on the developer’s behalf was discrimination against disabled persons under the ADA and FHA.
In defense of the allegations we argued: The developer never claimed to be acting on behalf of disabled persons; the only request was for a letter of intent, which the PHA could not submit since it would have violated its Administrative Plan and federal regulations; and the request was not necessary to enable disabled persons equal access since the PHA’s decision had the same effect on non-disabled persons.
The jury unanimously agreed that the plaintiff developer failed to prove all the necessary prima facie elements of discrimination and issued a verdict for the defendant Housing Authority.