Orange Avenue United Tenants’ Association Reaches Settlement in Fair Housing Act Suit

August 12, 2022

Cleary Gottlieb, along with co-counsel the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Legal Services of North Florida (LSNF), reached an amicable settlement with the Tallahassee Housing Authority (THA) following a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Orange Avenue United Tenants’ Association (Orange Avenue) and former Orange Avenue tenants Oliver Hill and Elizabeth Gabriel against the THA in connection with its Orange Avenue redevelopment project.

The lawsuit alleged that THA’s redevelopment plan violated the Fair Housing Act by forcing the complex’s majority-Black residents to relocate to more racially isolated areas of Tallahassee with fewer social and economic opportunities and by failing to provide for sufficiently affordable options for them to return. On August 12, 2022, the action was voluntarily dismissed as the parties had reached a settlement.

The THA agreed to numerous stipulations, considerably affecting its redevelopment plan and greatly helping its residents. Among the stipulations, THA is required to give residents who relocated because of the redevelopment first priority preference right of return to move into the newly built units, former tenants must be offered units that have the same number of bedrooms as their previous unit, and THA will pay residents’ relocation costs. The settlement additionally changes THA’s general practices, benefitting future residents. THA agreed to enter into a program with its redevelopment partners that ensures that “at least 25% of the units at the redevelopment site are dedicated to housing for extremely low-income households for the long-term future” and to conduct “proactive landlord recruitment to increase the likelihood of landlord participation in the voucher program in higher opportunity areas.”

Giovanni Bush, an LSNF attorney who worked on the case, said the outcome was “extremely rare because these cases of disparate impact...are rarely filed,” adding, “to have this result before the two-month period [before a case management conference or any motion practice] pretty much never happens.”