Feds file discrimination suit against Munster condo

Case is the latest region housing lawsuit by Justice Department
2008-07-16T00:00:00Z Feds file discrimination suit against Munster condoJOE CARLSON
July 16, 2008 12:00 am  • 

MUNSTER | The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a Munster condominium association alleging the group illegally denied housing to a couple because they were black and had children.

The federal lawsuit alleges Autumn Ridge Condominium Association and its three board members refused to allow an engaged couple, David Haddox and Kourtney Valentine, to buy a unit in the development in 2006.

According to government filings in Hammond federal court, condo association officials did not raise an issue about Valentine's two children violating board policy until after the officials learned Valentine and Haddox were black during face-to-face meetings.

Until June 25, 2007, the association had a rule prohibiting sales to anyone with children younger than 18 if the children were to live in the units. But the previous owner, Diane Webster-Rangel, had two children living in the condo, federal filings allege.

Two officials with the condo association, including Board President Richard Archie, did not return calls for comment placed by The Times to the association's management company in Highland on Tuesday afternoon.

Haddox and Valentine would have been the first black residents in the 20-unit development at 633 South St. since the association was formed in 1986, the government lawsuit states.

Department of Justice spokeswoman Jamie Hais said her department's lawsuit is the result of a complaint received and investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Civil Rights Division trial attorney M. Elizabeth Parr states in the federal complaint that the board's decision not to approve the $122,000 sale between the previous owner and Haddox violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating on the basis of race and familial status.

Other victims included the seller, who had to accept a lower purchase price from a white buyer in 2007, and Haddox's real estate agents, who did not get paid for their work on the deal, the lawsuit alleges.

Tuesday's filing marked the latest federal lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division over alleged housing discrimination in the region.

Last year, the federal government sued the town of St. John regarding allegations the Town Council violated the Fair Housing Act when it voted to deny a variance requested by a man who wanted to let people with multiple sclerosis receive care in his home. The town denies the allegations, and the case is ongoing.

And in 2002, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the Lake County Economic Development Department for firing a former director who supported the construction of an affordable housing development in Lake Station that could have attracted minority residents.

Lake County agreed to pay ousted director Richard Hucker $282,000 to settle the case last year -- nine years after Hucker was fired in 1998.

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