ACLU Statement on HUD Guidance on Nuisance Ordinances

September 13, 2016 2:30 pm

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NEW YORK — The Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced guidance explaining that local nuisance ordinances that penalize tenants, including victims of domestic violence, for calling 911 can be discriminatory and violate the Fair Housing Act.

HUD highlighted the case of Lakisha Briggs, a domestic violence survivor, who faced eviction after her neighbor called for emergency assistance when Briggs was stabbed. Briggs challenged the Norristown, PA nuisance ordinance in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Pepper Hamilton. The lawsuit and a HUD-initiated investigation resulted in a repeal of the ordinance and Briggs also got a $495,000 monetary award.

Sandra Park, a senior staff attorney with the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, had this reaction to HUD’s guidance:

“Domestic violence victims shouldn’t face the impossible choice of staying silent or risking homelessness because they call 911. HUD is sending a strong message that these local ordinances can be dangerous for vulnerable people who need help, and cities should repeal them.”

The ACLU has been fighting against discriminatory nuisances ordinances, and has written about the cities and towns across the country where these ordinances are in place. We requested guidance from HUD in December alongside 15 anti-violence, disability rights, and housing groups. In August, U.S. senators wrote a letter to the secretary of HUD in support of efforts to combat discrimination in nuisance ordinances.

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