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Press Release Boston Housing Authority Settles Claims of Disability Discrimination Against Tenants at South Boston Complex

Case is Part of AG Healey’s Ongoing Efforts to Combat Housing Discrimination
For immediate release:
5/13/2021
  • Office of Attorney General Maura Healey

Media Contact for Boston Housing Authority Settles Claims of Disability Discrimination Against Tenants at South Boston Complex

Chloe Gotsis

BOSTON The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) has agreed to pay up to $55,000 and develop new housing accommodation policies to settle allegations that it denied a family with a parent and child who have significant health issues access to suitable housing, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today. The BHA is also required to transfer the family to a housing unit that accommodates their needs.

The case is part of AG Healey’s ongoing efforts to address discrimination that disproportionately impacts residents of color, individuals with disabilities, and/or those who are low-income.

“Refusal to provide reasonable accommodations to those in need is illegal and can affect the health of tenants with disabilities,” AG Healey said. “This settlement will provide a suitable unit for this family and require BHA to develop protocols to ensure it is complying with our fair housing laws and responding to the needs of tenants with disabilities in the future. My office is committed to enforcing the rights afforded to all residents under our housing laws and protecting vulnerable tenants.”

The consent judgment, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, settles allegations that BHA violated the Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination Law by failing to respond to the family’s multiple requests for reasonable housing accommodations, resulting in the father and son being forced to live in an apartment with conditions that have had a detrimental effect on their mental and physical health.

The case was referred to the AG’s Office after the Boston Fair Housing Commission found probable cause that the BHA failed to respond to the tenants’ reasonable request for accommodation for more than two years.

According to the AG’s complaint, the family lives in the Anne M. Lynch Homes at Old Colony Development in South Boston, one of the BHA’s most distressed public housing complexes, in a unit that has a persistent cockroach and mice infestation, as well as significant problems with mold, dust and other air contaminants, and temperature control, all of which have exacerbated the tenants’ medical conditions.

According to the AG’s complaint, the family’s social worker submitted requests to transfer the family to another housing unit, noting that the tenants’ living conditions, including exposure to neighborhood violence and active substance use near the building, had a detrimental effect on their mental and physical health. The request included notes from the family’s doctors noting the harms and that the son had frequent visits to the emergency room because of the conditions. The AG’s complaint alleges that BHA failed multiple times to timely process the tenants’ request for a unit transfer.

Under the state’s fair housing law, it is illegal to deny or unreasonably delay reasonable accommodations necessary to permit equal opportunity for a tenant to fully use and enjoy their home. BHA also illegally failed to engage in meaningful interactive dialogue with the tenants to consider their multiple requests for reasonable accommodations.

Under the terms of the consent judgment, the BHA is required to transfer the tenants to a suitable unit that is located in a safe and stable environment, has no sanitary code violations, and has air conditioning and a thermostat for temperature control.

The BHA is also required to develop a protocol for properly processing reasonable accommodation transfer requests from tenants that is consistent with its obligations under federal and state fair housing laws. This new protocol must include, among other things, training for employees on fair housing law and BHA’s reasonable accommodations policy, and a timely interactive dialogue with tenants who request a transfer as an accommodation.

The settlement also requires BHA to pay $20,000 to the tenants and an additional $35,000 to them if BHA fails to transfer the family to a suitable new unit before June 23.

In April, AG Healey commemorated Fair Housing Month by announcing that her office is hosting a roundtable for counselors as well as trainings for landlords, property managers, real estate agents, community organizations, and tenant advocates to ensure they are aware of protections afforded to tenants under state and federal fair housing laws. AG Healey is focused on combating housing discrimination for those who receive federal housing assistance.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is committed to enforcing the state’s antidiscrimination laws and encourages those who have concerns about housing discrimination to call the office’s Civil Rights Division at 617-963-2917 or to file a complaint online.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Trini Gao of AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division.

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Media Contact for Boston Housing Authority Settles Claims of Disability Discrimination Against Tenants at South Boston Complex

Office of Attorney General Maura Healey 

Attorney General Maura Healey is the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
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