FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 2, 2014
The Volunteers of America violated federal fair housing laws by entering into an agreement that will result in publicly-subsidized housing being converted to luxury housing by Goodman Real Estate.
The Theodora Apartments in Ravenna are home to seniors and veterans with disabilities. Their tenant association, the Theodora Rescue Committee, has charged in a lawsuit today that the Volunteers of America, a national nonprofit that values the public good and social justice, unfairly discriminated against people with disabilities when it entered into an agreement this past winter to sell housing dedicated to seniors and people with disabilities to Goodman Real Estate. Goodman Real Estate plans to convert the Theodora to luxury apartments that, at more than double the current rent, would be unaffordable for the seniors and veterans, all of whom have disabilities, who reside there.
The Theodora is a 112 unit building, built in 1965 using a mortgage through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Theodora is located in a safe neighborhood that is in close proximity to public transportation, and a few short blocks to a pharmacy, the library, and grocery store, important features for people with disabiltiies. As represented by the testimony of Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute, the Volunteers of America has not adequately pursued available options to preserve the housing for people with disabilities by failing to reach out to the local nonprofit housing development community and failing to pursue several programs that would have enabled them to preserve the housing themselves. People with disabilities who used to have a home in Ravenna have been displaced out of their neighborhoods, and will continue to be displaced if the sale continues to go through. Ravenna will be a neighborhood with 112 fewer units for people with disabilities. In a lawsuit filed today, the Theodora Rescue Committee charges that this action has a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities and contributes to housing segregation. The Theodora Rescue Committee is being represented by Eric Dunn, attorney at the Northwest Justice Project.
This is a potentially groundbreaking lawsuit that brings to light the often discriminatory and segregationist impacts of for-profit development across Seattle and which highlights the current utility of Fair Housing Laws in the continuing effort to desegregate housing. As for-profit companies convert Seattle’s affordable housing to apartments for the wealthy, protected classes under Fair Housing laws—people of color, immigrants, seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, people with Section 8 vouchers, and more—are resegregated to the edges and periphery of Seattle.
“The Volunteers of America and Goodman Real Estate are pushing people disabilities, not just out of the Theodora, but out of Seattle. For an organization that claims to have no limits to caring, the Volunteers of America ought to reconsider the impact selling this building to a company like Goodman Real Estate will have on people with disabilities in Seattle.” – Shawn Walton, Theodora Rescue Committee Member