HUD No. 05-112
Antoinette P. Banks
September 1, 2005
HUD CHARGES ARLINGTON PARK RACECOURSE, CHURCHILL DOWNS WITH VIOLATING FEDERAL FAIR HOUSING ACT
Owners and operators of racetrack excluded families with children from more desirable housing
WASHINGTON - The Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced that it has charged Arlington Park Racecourse, LLC, and Churchill Downs, Inc., with violating the Fair Housing Act by restricting racetrack workers with children to housing that consists of overcrowded single-room units with no private bathrooms or air conditioning, while offering workers without the children the option to live in housing that provides these amenities. The discriminatory housing assignment practice violates the familial status provision of the federal Fair Housing Act.
"It has been illegal to discriminate against families with children since 1988," said Floyd May, HUD's General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "Sadly, over fifteen years later, here is a case where a landlord not only establishes a discriminatory policy, but openly communicates that policy to hundreds of people including tenants and employees."
During the horseracing season, May-though-September, Arlington Park provides housing along the backstretch of the track for employees of horse trainers and their families. Up until late 2004, dorm units were provided in eight buildings. In late 2004 and early 2005, Arlington Park constructed two more dorm buildings, for a total of 10 dorm buildings. Through the end of the 2004 racing season, all families with children were assigned to buildings 2 and 3. During HUD"s investigation, racetrack owners and operators admitted that families with children were specifically barred from buildings 4 through 8. HUD charges that the racetrack also excluded workers with children from building 1.
Among other violations, HUD is charging the owners and operators of the track with discriminatory "steering," the publication of discriminatory statements and preferences, and providing different terms and conditions in housing based on familial status.
HOPE Fair Housing Center, a private, fair-housing organization in Wheaton, Illinois, filed the fair housing complaint with HUD on behalf of the racetrack workers. HOPE investigates and files complaints of housing discrimination, conducts fair housing testing and participates in advocacy initiatives designed to address the issue of housing discrimination. HOPE also serves on the Arlington Backstretch Coordinating Committee, which was established in to improve the living conditions of racetrack workers.
Executive Director of HOPE Fair Housing Center, Bernard J. Kleina, said, "The treatment of employees with children at Arlington Park is completely unacceptable. Can you imagine living in one room that is 10" x 12" with your spouse and two or three children, and all of your belongings with no running water, no toilet, no shower, no air conditioning and no kitchen? Employees without children at least have running water, a toilet, a shower and air conditioning in their rooms. We commend HUD for its thorough and professional investigation of HOPE's complaint."
"We commend the HOPE Fair Housing Center for bringing this situation to our attention," said May. "HOPE continues to be a valuable partner in educating the Chicago-area public about their fair housing rights and bringing actions on their behalf."
A U.S. Administrative Law Judge will hold a hearing on the charges on November 15, 2005, unless either the complainant or the respondents elect to have the case decided by a federal judge in U.S. District Court. An election to proceed in district court must be made by September 19, 2005.
Housing discrimination charges heard before an ALJ carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense, in addition to actual damages for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorneys" fees. Sanctions can be more severe if a respondent has a history of housing discrimination. If either party elects to go to federal district court, either party may request a jury trial, and punitive damages may be awarded.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, and people with disabilities. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov.
People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUDat (800) 669-9777 or DOJ at (800) 896-7743 or (202) 514-4713.
Additional information is available on the Internet and www.usdoj.gov.