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Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit v. Jewish Senior Life of Metropolitan Detroit, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

May 16, 2017

Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit, Plaintiff,
v.
Jewish Senior Life of Metropolitan Detroit, Inc., JAS Non Profit Housing Corporation VI, and Jewish Apartment And Services, Inc., Defendants.

          R. Steven Whalen United States Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN PART AND DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN PART [43]

          HON. GERSHWIN A. DRAIN United States District Court Judge

         I. Introduction

         This consolidated action arises out of alleged housing discrimination. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [43]. The Parties have fully briefed the issues and a hearing was held on May 15, 2017. For the reasons that will follow, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment IN PART and DENIES Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment IN PART.

         II. Facts

         This action is brought by the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit (hereinafter “Plaintiff” or “FHC”). Defendant Jewish Senior Life of Metropolitan Detroit, Inc. is a non-profit corporation (hereinafter “JSL”). Dkt. No 44, p. 2 (Pg. ID 273). JSL is the sole member of co-Defendants Jewish Apartment and Services, Inc. (hereinafter “JAS”) and JAS Non Profit Housing Corporation VI. Id. JAS employs the staff who operate senior housing communities. Id. The community at the center of this action is the Meer Apartments, staffed by JAS and controlled by JSL. Id.

         The factual basis for the racial and national origin claims turns on a series of tests conducted by the Plaintiff. The factual basis for the religious discrimination claim turns on a Kosher kitchen and dining facility operated within the Meer Apartments.

         Test # 1 (Frederick Simpson/ Michael Martin)

         According to the Plaintiff, on June 4, 2013 at 10:36AM, Frederick Simpson visited the Meer Apartments. Dkt. No. 48, p. 12 (Pg. ID 1373). Simpson, who is an African American male, inquired about the availability of a one or two-bedroom unit, stating that he would like to move in within thirty days. Id. Michael Sorna, a Meer employee, informed Simpson that there were no vacancies in one or two-bedroom units. Id. When Simpson asked for a tour, Mr. Sorna declined, stating that he had a move-in that precluded a tour at that time. Id.

         Meer is a Housing Program pursuant to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Dkt. No. 48, p. 10 (Pg. ID 1391). Accordingly, it is funded at least in part by public taxpayers dollars and is used for low and moderate income persons. Id. Hechtman Apartments are located near Meer. Hechtman Apartments are subsided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Id., p. 14 (Pg. ID 1375). Upon leaving Meer, Mr. Sorna encouraged Simpson to apply with Hechtman. Id.

         At 2:30PM on the same day, Michael Martin, a Caucasian male, visited the Meer Apartments. Id. Martin was given a tour and encouraged to move in. Id. Mr. Sorna showed Martin three apartments. Id. During this time, there was always at least one vacant one-bedroom apartment. Id., p. 15 (Pg. ID 1376). Martin was never referred to Hechtman. Id.

         Test # 2 Michael Simmons/Tim Daniel

         On June 24, 2013, Michael Simmons, an African American male, visited the Meer Apartments. Id. Simmons informed Marcia Middleton, a Meer administrator, that he was interested in a two-bedroom unit. Id. Simmons was told that there was a waiting list for the two-bedroom units, but did not discuss one-bedroom units. Id.

         On June 25, 2013, Tim Daniel, a Caucasian male, visited Meer. Id., p. 16 (Pg. ID 1377). Daniel informed Mr. Sorna that he was looking for a one or two-bedroom unit. Id. Mr. Sorna informed Daniel that there were three one-bedroom units available, gave him a tour of the complex, and offered to show him a one-bedroom unit. Id.

         Test # 3 Ikram Bashi/Yvette Roome

         On September 13, 2013 at 3:30PM, Ikram Bashi, a Chaldean-American born in Iraq, visited the Meer Apartments. Id. Bashi informed a Meer employee that she was looking for a unit for her father. Id., p. 17 (Pg. ID 1378). The employee informed Bashi that she did not have time to give her a tour. Id. After requested, the employee gave Bashi information about Meer, including a business card, and told Bashi to call for an appointment. Id.

         That same day, at 5:15PM, Yvette Roome, an American-born Caucasian woman, visited Meer Apartments and received a ten-minute tour, including a tour of a one-bedroom apartment. Id. Without asking, Roome received information about Meer. Id. According to Roome, she called before she arrived at Meer to let staff know that she was stuck in traffic. Dkt. No. 44-22, p. 23 (Pg. ID 553). An on-site security guard told Roome that although the staff was leaving, Roome could still come in for information. Id. It was this security guard that greeted and gave Roome a tour. Id.

         Test # 4 Victoria Bobbish Ward/Patricia Davis

         On October 24, 2013 at 9:16AM, Ward, a Caucasian female, visited the Meer Apartments. Id. She informed Mr. Sorna that she was looking for housing for her father. Id. Mr. Sorna informed Ward that there were several one-bedroom apartments available, and mentioned that there were subsidies available. Id., p. 18 (Pg. ID 1739). Before leaving, Mr. Sorna referred Ward to Marcia Mittleman for further information and literature about Meer. Id. .

         That same day, at 12:05PM, Patricia Davis, a sixty-eight year-old African American female, visited Meer. Id. She informed Mr. Sorna that she was looking for housing for her father and asked about both one and two-bedroom apartments. Id. Mr. Sorna indicated that there were several one-bedroom units available and told Davis that she would have to phone Marcia Mittleman for a tour of the facility. Id. There was no mention of subsidies available at Meer. Id. Before leaving, Mr. Sorna gave Davis literature which included the following statement:

JEWISH SENIOR LIFE IS DEDICATED TO ENHANCING THE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR OLDER ADULTS OF THE METROPOLITAN JEWISH COMMUNITY…THE PROGRAMS AND ...

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