HOPE Fair Housing Center files housing discrimination lawsuit

HOPE President and CEO Keenya Robertson
HOPE President and CEO Keenya Robertson

HOPE Fair Housing Center files housing discrimination lawsuit

By Derek Joy

      The Design Place Apartments in the Sabal Palm development bordering the city of Miami’s Mid Town area is being sued in Federal Court by the HOPE Fair Housing Center, Inc., for alleged housing discrimination.

    Matthew Tisdale, a HOPE investigator acting as a tester, uncovered the discrepancies that led to the discrimination lawsuit.

    “One of our programs is testing. It‘s done on an ongoing basis,” said HOPE President and CEO Keenya Robertson, while noting HOPE is an acronym for housing opportunities project for excellence, which was founded in 1988.

     “Our mission is to fight housing discrimination in Broward and Miami Dade Counties and ensure housing opportunities throughout Florida. The name lets you know why we are here.”

    Hence, HOPE, acting on that mission dispatched a Black American tester and a White tester to act as apartment rental applicants to Design Place Apartments, located at 5175 N.E. Third Ct.

    Once called Sabal Palms Apartments, segregation was the practice until the 1970’s when people of color began to avail themselves to the benefits of integrated housing opportunities, the 500 unit; gated Design Place Apartments finds itself mired as defendants in a housing discrimination lawsuit in Federal Court.

    So, what exactly happened to spawn a housing discrimination lawsuit in 2012?

    “This all goes back to the Civil Rights Era,” Robertson said. “When African American applicants went they were told there were no vacancies. And they were quoted rental prices of $100 a month more than White applicants. White applicants were told were immediate vacancies.

     “That’s the basis of our law-suit. We haven’t seen one like this in a minute,” added Robertson.  “Most cases in the last five or six years have been family with children discrimination.”

    Ah, but this one, according to Robertson, is back to the Civil Rights Era in which people of color were routinely denied housing solely on the basis of race. 

    Black American applicants allegedly were quoted a higher rental price than Whites.  They were also allegedly discouraged by being told no immediate vacancies existed, while Whites were allegedly offered immediate vacancies.

    “It’s amazing that people are still doing that in 2012, and it continues,” Robertson sighed.  “As we earned more wealth find doors are still slammed in our faces.”

     Ironically, housing discrimination has taken a different twist. It is fast becoming trend in Miami Dade County in public housing, where Hispanics, and some Whites, are given preference in what used to be solely inhabited by Black Americans.

    Within the inner city, in such places as Liberty City, Brownsville and Overtown, public housing, including Section 8, see more Hispanics and Whites are gaining access to the disadvantage of people of color.

    Black American applicants are given various seemingly in-valid reasons, or stretched interpretations of the law, for the denials and delays that really border on housing discrimination.

    However, the Design Place Apartments is not a HUD or public housing project.  It is owned by George Pesonui and SPV Realty. So HOPE Fair Housing Center, Inc. is seeking to redress the alleged violations without monetary gains to any individual.

    “We want a change in policy so this doesn’t happen again. We want the current managers and staff who did this to fired, and we want those (Design Place Apartments) to market in the African American Community,” said Robertson.

    “Everybody in their rental brochure is White.  Market these units to the community it represents. We’re such a multi-cultural community. We want these apartments open to everybody.”


About Carma Henry 20175 Articles
Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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