The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has reached an agreement with Carbrook Associates, LP (Carbrook), a provider of project-based subsidized housing that plans to exit HUD’s Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) program this October. The Consent Order resolves allegations that Carbrook discriminated on the basis of race and disability in the operation of its multifamily housing properties. The Consent Order requires Carbrook to make modifications so units and common areas are accessible to individuals with disabilities. It also requires Carbrook to provide families who are seeking housing an equal opportunity to apply for and live in units regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability, and other characteristics protected by federal fair housing laws. Specifically, Carbrook must conduct affirmative fair housing marketing and modify its waitlist policies and procedures.
Since 1981, Carbrook has received federal funds to provide affordable housing to income-qualifying families in Brooklyn, New York. In the ten-year period prior to HUD’s findings, Carbrook received over $11.5 million in Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) from HUD to operate two affordable multifamily housing developments. Carbrook has elected to end participation in the PBRA program in October. Under these circumstances, to protect assisted residents and preserve affordable housing, federal law ensures that tenant protection vouchers will be available to all residents. Those provide mobile rental assistance that can travel with the family should they choose to leave the property. HUD also has tools to keep the project-based assistance viable at another location even after the opt-out at this property.
“HUD is committed to enforcing federal civil rights laws and will not tolerate housing providers taking federal housing funds while shirking their civil rights obligations and refusing to cooperate with federal civil rights investigations,” said Jeanine Worden, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Today’s Consent Order demonstrates HUD’s commitment to ensuring individuals with disabilities and persons of color have an equal opportunity to live in affordable, accessible housing.”
HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) conducted an investigation of allegations that Carbrook engaged in race and disability discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). FHEO’s investigation found that Carbrook had failed to eliminate architectural barriers that limited access by individuals with disabilities and failed to cooperate in HUD’s investigation of Carbrook’s alleged practice of excluding tenants of racial and other minority groups, resulting in occupancy of its buildings by almost exclusively white tenants.
When Carbrook and HUD failed to resolve these allegations, in April 2021, HUD’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) filed a fund termination proceeding under Title VI and Section 504 with the Office of Hearings and Appeals. HUD deferred PBRA monthly voucher payments while the legal proceeding was pending due to the unresolved allegations of disability and race discrimination. The parties then were able to achieve a voluntary resolution.
“Fair housing laws prohibit discrimination based on disability and race, and the Department takes compliance with fair housing laws very seriously. We prefer to resolve fair housing matters cooperatively, but will take appropriate legal action to ensure compliance with fair housing laws,” said Sasha Samberg-Champion, Deputy General Counsel for Enforcement and Fair Housing.
Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, such as PBRA, and requires that recipients of federal financial assistance bring their programs and activities into compliance with federal accessibility requirements. Title VI similarly prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
Under the terms of today’s Consent Order, Carbrook will:
- Ensure that at least 5 percent of its units are fully mobility accessible, and at least 2 percent are designated sensory accessible;
- Ensure that accessible units are appropriately tenanted;
- Hire an independent licensed architect to evaluate and design the accessible retrofitting of existing units and common areas;
- Create a new marketing plan and advertise to community groups least likely to apply across New York City;
- Ensure advertisements include a written statement that Carbrook does not discriminate on the basis of race color, national origin, disability, familial status, religion, or sex;
- Purge its existing waitlist, create a new waitlist of families, and alternate housing offers between the two waitlists while it receives PBRA;
- After it leaves the PBRA program in October 2021, comply with the requirements of the Fair Housing Act; and
- Report to HUD progress for the next two years on its compliance with the Consent Order.
The Consent Order also authorizes HUD to seek disgorgement (repayment) of any PBRA payments for failure to comply with its requirements.