The Justice Department announced Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit against the owner and resident manager of the Fountainbleau Apartments in East Ridge, alleging housing discrimination against individuals on account of their having children.
"No one should be denied an opportunity to live where they choose because they have children," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department is committed to vigorous prosecution of illegal housing discrimination."
The complaint, filed in federal district court in Chattanooga, alleges that the defendants refused to rent apartments to persons with children and steered them to another apartment complex. The Department conducted its investigation through the use of fair-housing testers - individuals who pose as renters for purposes of gathering information about possible discriminatory practices in the rental of apartments.
The lawsuit seeks an order prohibiting the defendants from engaging in unlawful housing discrimination, monetary damages for victims of the defendants' unlawful conduct, and the payment of a civil penalty to the government.
Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department, officials said. In February, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales announced Operation Home Sweet Home, a concentrated initiative "to expose and eliminate housing discrimination in America."
The initiative was inspired by the plight of displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina who were suddenly forced to find new places to live, it was stated. Operation Home Sweet Home, however, is not limited to the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina, but targets housing discrimination all over the country - including Tennessee.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.