Housing Discrimination

For nearly 40 years, Brown, Goldstein & Levy attorneys have won precedent-setting fair housing cases. We challenge all manner of housing discrimination, fighting for clients who face discrimination in housing because of race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status, and socioeconomic status. Our clients are both individuals and organizations focused on ending housing discrimination.

For over 25 years, Brown, Goldstein & Levy provided legal services to Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. (BNI), a non-profit organization with a mission to eliminate discrimination in the provision of housing opportunities. Through our representation of BNI, we obtained the first judgment in the country under the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Amendments Act in the Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. v. Rommel Builders and LOB, Inc. series of cases. On behalf of BNI, our attorneys won a $2 million verdict for discriminatory advertising by a large housing developer that used exclusively white models in its ads, a result that was recognized by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights with its “Outstanding Achievement Award in the Field of Fair Housing.”  We achieved a $900,000 settlement in a housing discrimination case in which a garden apartment development steered African-American tenants to rear units, as well as a $250,000 settlement in a case in which real estate agents steered white prospective buyers away from neighborhoods with significant African-American populations. Throughout its relationship with BNI, Brown, Goldstein & Levy successfully litigated over 30 cases, winning millions of dollars for BNI’s development fund and helping to further fair housing in the Baltimore region.

Our lawyers have acted as counsel in numerous efforts to establish group homes for persons with disabilities in the face of active community resistance. We were lead counsel in the landmark Potomac Group Home case, which led directly to the elimination of state and local laws requiring neighbor notification and public hearings prior to the opening of such homes. Unfortunately, that battle keeps having to be re-fought, most recently on behalf of a group home in Louisiana.

Along with the ACLU of Maryland and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, we successfully prosecuted Thompson v. HUD, challenging HUD’s decades-long practice of approving the location of the region’s family public housing only in the poorest, most segregated neighborhoods in East and West Baltimore, in violation of the Fair Housing Act’s requirement that the government act to affirmatively further fair housing as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. After 17 years of litigation, two trials, and a ruling that HUD had violated the FHA, HUD agreed to settle the case by providing 4,400 new housing vouchers and funds for mobility counseling. That settlement led to the creation of the leading housing mobility program in the country, the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership, which has helped over 5,000 families move to communities of opportunity throughout Central Maryland. In 2018, on the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, the National Law Journal listed Thompson as one of the five most significant fair housing cases of the past 50 years.

In recent years, we have represented the National Fair Housing Alliance and fair housing organizations from across the country in a lawsuit against Bank of America for the bank’s failure to maintain foreclosed-upon properties in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods as well as it maintains such properties in predominantly white neighborhoods. We are also co-counsel on behalf of counties suing banks for their loss of tax revenues due to predatory lending practices leading up to the financial crisis.

Today, as discrimination has become less obvious but remains just as insidious, Brown, Goldstein & Levy continues to use innovative legal tools and strategies to achieve the goal of equal housing opportunity for all. These tools and strategies include pursuing disparate impact discrimination claims, challenging discriminatory zoning ordinances and decisions, and seeking justice for the communities and municipalities harmed by predatory lending. Though the Fair Housing Act’s promise of fair housing for all is not yet a reality, we won’t stop fighting until it is.

Representative Cases
  • Thompson v. HUD – As a remedy for decades of family public housing being located only in poor, predominantly Black, neighborhoods in Baltimore City, we obtained 4,400 vouchers and mobility counseling, worth over $1 billion, to enable poor Black families to move to communities of opportunity throughout Central Maryland over the course of 15 years. Brown Goldstein & Levy was co-lead counsel together with the Maryland ACLU, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and two other law firms.

  • National Fair Housing Alliance v. Bank of America – Represent the National Fair Housing Alliance and fair housing groups across the country in lawsuit against Bank of America and Safeguard Properties Management for maintaining foreclosed-upon homes in white neighborhoods in better condition than those in Black and Latinx neighborhoods.

  • Plack v. Perry Township, Ohio – With co-counsel Steve Dane of Dane Law LLC, we represent the owner-operators of a residential care home for seniors with disabilities in a fair housing lawsuit regarding Perry Township’s refusal to grant the home zoning approval.

  • AngeliCare v. St. Bernard Parish – Obtained $975,000 settlement and changes to local policy in fair housing lawsuit on behalf of the owners of two prospective therapeutic group homes for children after St. Bernard Parish changed its zoning code to exclude group homes from residential zones in order to prevent the homes from opening. As a result of our lawsuit, the DOJ Civil Rights Division filed its own fair housing complaint against St. Bernard Parish, which was consolidated with our case.

  • Kuchmas v. Towson University – Obtained $300,000 and four academic years of free accessible campus housing and free tuition for an incoming student at Towson University whose campus dorm was wheelchair-inaccessible.

  • Fenwick-Schaefer v. Winchester Homes, Inc. – Won $2 million verdict for discriminatory advertising by a large housing developer that used exclusively white models in its ads, a result that was recognized by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights with its “Outstanding Achievement Award in the Field of Fair Housing.”

  • Potomac Group Home v. Montgomery County – eliminated state and local laws requiring neighbor notification and public hearings prior to the opening of group homes for individuals with disabilities.

Awards
  • Ranked Tier 1 in Baltimore by Best Lawyers and U.S. News & World Report for Civil Rights Law (2020).
  • Civil Rights Law Firm of the Year, The National Law Journal Elite Trial Lawyers (2018).
  • Outstanding Partner award, Public Justice Center (2018).
  • Outstanding Achievement Award in the Field of Fair Housing, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (1994).