[ This story was published back on Thursday, May 12, 2005 ]
NORTHAMPTON - In a case a lawyer said is a warning to all landlords, a former city property owner agreed Tuesday to pay a former tenant $21,000 for refusing to accept his state-subsidized housing vouchers.
Eric Bove, a lawyer for the Holyoke-based Housing Discrimination Project who represented the tenant, said the settlement sends a message to landlords that they cannot refuse to accept housing assistance known as Section 8 if a tenant qualifies and his rent falls within the guidelines.
''Unfortunately, it's very common that people who use Section 8 funding are discriminated against or refused,'' Bove said. ''In the past two to three years, there have been three such cases in Northampton.''
In the most recent case, George Christian, former owner of Prospect Street Apartments, settled in a case brought in Housing Court by Wilton Hall, 39, who claimed that Christian wouldn't sign papers that would have allowed him to use housing assistance known as Section 8.
Hall, who receives Social Security disability payments, had lived in the apartment building for a year and a half when he approached Christian about signing the documents.
Christian told him, ''We have no interest in dealing with HUD,'' according to Bove. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) helps fund the HDP.
Christian sold the apartment building in May 2003 and now lives in Oregon. His lawyer, John Burke Jr. of Springfield, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
In agreeing to pay Hall the money, Christian stipulated that he was not admitting any wrongdoing.
The HDP serves central and western Massachusetts and is funded by several cities, including Northampton, as well as by HUD and the Massachusetts Bar Foundation.
Kimberly Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.