Housing settlement includes first decree of its kind, attorneys say.

 
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Byline: Bill Cresenzo

A Raleigh woman who was denied an emergency transfer to a new apartment while living in a Raleigh public housing complex has reached a settlement with the Raleigh Housing Authority that includes what attorneys say is the nation's first federal consent decree that addresses a housing authority's responsibilities to tenants who are victims of domestic violence.

Suzanne Chester of Legal Aid of North Carolina in Raleigh and Charles Holton of Duke University's Civil Justice Clinic in Durham represented the woman, whose name they requested be withheld. Their client filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in 2018, claiming that the RHA violated the Fair Housing Act after she repeatedly requested that the authority place her in another apartment after she was assaulted by an ex-boyfriend.

In addition, an intruder threatened a guest at gunpoint and two men shot bullets into her home, the complaint alleged, and so the RHA's refusal to transfer her to new housing also violated the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

In addition to a confidential monetary award, the settlement includes a decree that requires that the authority:

Provide tenants who are facing eviction with written notice of their rights under VAWA;

Make emergency transfer request forms and the RHA's emergency transfer plan available and accessible to all tenants;

Assign a current RHA employee as a point person to answer questions about VAWA's housing protections;

Provide regular, mandatory training on the Fair Housing Act for all property managers and employees involved in lease intake, transfer decisions and lease termination decisions;

Provide regular, mandatory training on VAWA and domestic violence for all property managers and employees involved in lease intake, transfer decisions and lease termination decisions;

Send a letter to public housing tenants each year soliciting feedback on all...

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