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Hidden Village v. City of Lakewood, Ohio, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46589 (March 30, 2012)

Issue: Do the provisions of the Fair Housing Act only provide legal protection against acts that have made housing unavailable or resulted in the denial of housing to a protected class?

Summary: Hidden Village is the owner and manager of apartments located on the eastern border of Lakewood, adjoining Cleveland. Two buildings of the complex’s four buildings are occupied by the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries’ Youth Re-Entry Program (YRP). YRP seeks to prepare young adults ages 16 to 21 for independent living after they leave foster care or are released from the juvenile correction system. The two buildings provided supervised and cluster-site living arrangements while offering instruction on topics such as anger management, banking, and navigating the apartment rental market. On average, 80 percent of the clientele are African-Americans.
YRP’s relocation to Lakewood was preceded by a meeting with city officials, whose initial response was that the YRP occupancy constituted an institutional use prohibited by code. YRP’s legal counsel disagreed. The relocation occurred in April 2006, and by May, the Building Commission gave Hidden Village a month to remove the “unpermitted use.” YRP’s appeal to the Planning Commission resulted in a unanimous decision overruling the Building Commission’s determination.
Subsequently, the Lakewood Police Department ordered its officers to document any contacts with the 27 YRP residents and recommended that citations be issued or arrests made for any on or off-site violations. In February 2007, Lakewood’s mayor sent a letter expressing concern about the YRP move, noting that police intervention had more than doubled since its relocation. The letter warned of the mayor’s intent to seek the program’s removal from Lakewood. In May 2007, during a meeting with YRP, a police department representative asked if YRP would leave the Hidden Village Apartments. Six days later, members of the Lakewood fire, police, and health departments attempted an impromptu inspection of Hidden Village to verify that all health and safety issues were properly addressed. In response, Hidden Village’s counsel informed the city that future warrantless searches would not be tolerated. A subsequent inspection by the state and city fire inspectors, again without a warrant, was attempted and when asked to leave, they promised to return with a warrant. In July, Hidden Village owners were cited for failing to maintain a hedge at a three-foot height even though the hedge had been at a four-foot height for a decade.    
Outcome: The court ruled that the Fair Housing Act was not limited to discriminatory conduct at the time of the acquisition of housing and applies with equal force to subsequent conduct that interferes with the occupants’ use and enjoyment of the housing opportunities.
Legal significance: The court declared that a post-acquisition claim of harassment is actionable under the Fair Housing Act, even where no actual or constructive eviction has occurred, thereby rejecting the Fifth and Seventh Circuits’ decisions.
Visit Hidden Village v. City of Lakewood summary on Google Scholar to view the entire opinion.