WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has signed a Conciliation Agreement/Voluntary Compliance Agreement with Hollyhand Companies, Inc., and The Village at Meadowview, LTD, the owners of a HUD-subsidized community in Fairhope, Alabama. The agreement resolves allegations and a HUD investigation into whether the owners’ policy prohibiting visitors under the age of 12 due to COVID-19 was discriminatory. Read the Agreement.
The case came to HUD’s attention when a resident filed a complaint alleging that the owners of The Village at Meadowview discriminated against her. The resident, who had been providing childcare for her grandchildren, was allegedly told that she could no longer do so because it violated the owners’ policy, instituted due to COVID-19, prohibiting visitors to the property under the age of 12. HUD also engaged in a compliance review to assess whether the owners had adopted an impermissible age distinction in their HUD-assisted programs or activities.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from making housing unavailable and imposing discriminatory terms or conditions based on a person’s actual or perceived disability (including the perception that they are unsafe to associate with because of fear they may spread contagious disease) or their familial status, or retaliating against a person for exercising their fair housing rights. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of federal financial assistance. In addition, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance.
“While housing providers can certainly take reasonable precautions to protect their residents from COVID-19, such as requiring residents and visitors to wear masks or maintain social distancing in public areas of an apartment building, they may not impose blanket prohibitions on any visits from children no matter what precautions are taken, thus keeping residents from visiting with family and friends in their own homes,” said Demetria McCain, HUD’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “As the nation continues to recover from the pandemic, HUD remains committed to protecting the rights of individuals and families when their fair housing rights are violated.”
Under the Agreement, the owners of The Village at Meadowview will pay the resident $20,000 and rescind their policy prohibiting visitors to the property who are under the age of 12, provide residents with notice of the rescission, and remove playground signage targeting anyone on the basis of age. The owners will also: implement revised visitation policies across all of their federally-funded properties; implement a non-discrimination policy at The Village at Meadowview and across their federally-funded properties; and undergo annual training for their management staff on how to comply with the Fair Housing Act, Section 504, and the Age Discrimination Act.