Friday, September 21, 2012

Possible Influx Of Section 8 Renters Into High-End Community Has One HOA, Some Neighbors 'Running Around With Their Hair On Fire'

In Broward County, Florida, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports:

  • Here's an odd side effect of South Florida's foreclosure crisis: Some immense homes with pools and three-car garages in gated communities are being rented out to unlikely tenants — poor people paying with Section 8 aid.

    Among the properties are homes with up to 4,500 square feet of space in private communities with guardhouses and regal names such as "Monarch Lakes" and "Bellagio at Vizcaya."

    Some of the owners are teetering on foreclosure and gambling they can earn enough money from the federal housing vouchers to stave off the banks. Others bought the properties cheap in foreclosure auctions and want the guaranteed rental income.

    Housing advocates and the government view the turnabout as a win-win for homeowners and the poor, who have access to safer communities and better schools.

    But some neighbors are aghast.

    After a single mother and her nine children rented a house in the exclusive Isles neighborhood of Coral Springs, the homeowners association adopted an amendment to its governing documents stating: "No Section 8 or government leasing assistance is permitted."

    The association is threatening eviction.

    Federal law does not expressly outlaw such bans. But the prohibition can't be used as a pretext for other illegal acts, such as denying housing to people because of their race, gender, national origin, disability or number of children.

    The owner of the Coral Springs house, Henri-Claude Marcellus, has hired a lawyer to challenge the restriction, claiming his mostly white neighbors are discriminating against him because he is Haitian and his tenants are African-American.

    A retired software engineer, real estate investor and radio show host, Marcellus said he confronted the association's officers, demanding to know: "What do you have against blacks?" "I hit a very sensitive nerve," he said in a recent interview.

    The association's lawyer and directors did not respond to requests for comment.(1)

(1) While Federal law may not prohibit it, the state law of at least one state, Massachusetts, prohibits discrimination against prospective renters on the basis of their receiving public assistance. See, for example:

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