City of Annapolis and its housing authority are named in a federal discrimination case. New plaintiffs join.
A motion filed last May against the city of Annapolis, Maryland, and its housing authority by attorney Joseph Donahue on behalf of public housing residents added more plaintiffs this month. The complaint alleges residents have been discriminated against by the city and the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis (HACA) for years. This mistreatment has led to unsafe and unsanitary living conditions in the housing communities. More than twenty public housing residents are expected to become plaintiffs in the federal discrimination lawsuit before U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake, and the case added five more adults and 17 children, upping the total to 52.
“HACA Properties managed solely by HACA are neither licensed nor inspected by the City,” the lawsuit read. “These properties are the only rental properties within the City that are neither licensed nor inspected. They are not licensed because the City Code is simply not enforced on the HACA Properties.”
Carrie Blackburn Riley, counsel for the housing authority, indicated the housing authority would not object to the motion. “HACA agreed based upon the efficiency and economy of a single action, it made sense to allow the inclusion of additional plaintiffs in lieu of plaintiffs’ counsel filing a second nearly identical separate action,” she responded.
“The five new families all live in public housing units that have been licensed and inspected by the city, yet their units still have significant issues that mirror those contained in the original complaint like mold, rodent infestations and plumbing issues and many have experienced health issues, as a result,” said Lisa Sarro, a supervising attorney at Maryland Legal Aid and co-counsel for the residents. She added, “Our concern is that although the city of Annapolis now is claiming to be inspecting and licensing properties, their inspections appear only to be for the purpose of granting licenses, going through the motions for granting a license. The things we were complaining of a year ago are still continuing to this day. The same conditions, the same problems in these properties, even though the city is theoretically now inspecting so that they can give licenses. The conditions in the properties have not changed at all in the year since we filed.”
“If your public housing is good, it benefits everyone in the city,” said Donahue. “Adding new residents, all of whom live in licensed units, shows the city is still not holding the housing authority to the same level as other landlords. These properties are just as bad as they were. They are simply not holding HACA to the same level of inspections. This shows the city can’t just simply say, ‘This case needs to go away because now we are inspecting.’”
“The defendants both expressed an interest in reaching out to a mediator,” Sarro disclosed. “Over the next couple of months, we will know if we’re going to be able to come to some agreement. If we hit a brick wall, we’ll go forward with discovery.”
Blake previously dismissed Mayor Gavin Buckley and the former head of HACA Beverly Wilbourn, named in the original filing, from the case.