Chicago, IL, July 07, 2011--The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. (CLC) announces that the Chicago Commission on Human Relations found that Chicago housing developer New Jerusalem Christian Development Corp. discriminated against CLC “Choose to Own” clients Ms. Parker and Ms. Pierce based on their source of income. The Commission awarded the two women a total of $110,000 in damages, the highest damages the Commission has awarded to CLC fair housing clients.
In Parker and Pierce v. New Jerusalem Christian Development Corp., Ms. Parker and Ms. Pierce were participants in the Chicago Housing Authority’s “Choose to Own” program, which allows qualified families to use their Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8) for mortgage payments on homes instead of rent. New Jerusalem agreed to sell new homes to both women, but subsequently refused to finalize the sales when it learned that part of their mortgage payments would come from City of Chicago subsidies. Specifically, New Jerusalem refused to sign a necessary Chicago Housing Authority document, knowing that without it, the sales could not be completed.
New Jerusalem’s refusal to sell new homes to Ms. Parker and Ms. Pierce caused them undue hardships. Because Ms. Parker needed to buy a home quickly before her voucher expired, she was forced to purchase an older home that needed substantial repairs and was not suitable for her disabled sister to live with her. Although she met all of the program requirements, Ms. Pierce lost her grant and was unable to buy a home for her young family. She is still renting. Ms. Parker and Ms. Pierce and their respective families also suffered emotionally, experiencing humiliation and distress at being denied the opportunity to purchase a home despite being qualified.
In February 2011, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations found that the housing developer New Jerusalem violated the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance by discriminating against Ms. Parker and Ms. Pierce based on their source of income. According to Chicago’s Fair Housing Ordinance, denial of housing based on source of income is illegal discrimination. The Commission ordered New Jerusalem to pay Ms. Pierce $20,000 for her emotional distress and $60,000 in punitive damages, and to pay Ms. Parker $20,000 for her emotional distress and $10,000 in punitive damages, for a total of $110,000. New Jerusalem was also ordered to pay city fines, attorneys’ fees and costs. CLC attorney Rachel Marks, along with Kirkland and Ellis LLP attorneys Paul