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Settlement reached in North Dakota housing discrimination case

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Mike Moen

(Prairie News Service) A housing discrimination case in North Dakota dealing with occupancy standards has resulted in a settlement, and advocates say it underscores the challenges families face in maintaining stable housing when access is scarce.

The High Plains Fair Housing Center announced this week Affordable Housing Developers Incorporated has agreed to pay $100,000 over a claim from a working mother from Mandan. The woman, who did not want to be publicly identified, said she was forced to vacate her townhome after updating her lease to note the recent birth of her fifth child.

Nicki Green, intake director for the High Plains Fair Housing Center, said the developer's standards were too restrictive. 

"This woman and her children had a three-bedroom unit and the max that was allowed there was five people per household, and this was a 1572-square-foot townhome," Green explained. "This is a big unit."

Green pointed out federal recommendations allow for more flexibility, and the family's living situation did not violate any city codes. The agreement was issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The complex was not a HUD property, but the developers did receive federal funding. As part of the settlement, leadership with the development group denies engaging in any discrimination. 

Green emphasized there is a ripple effect stemming from a case like this, noting the family, which had always paid its rent on time, was uprooted to Fargo because the situation forced the mom to get a new job there. 

"It was really hard for the family, it was really hard for the kids," Green recounted. "The kids didn't understand, they didn't know why they had to move suddenly, and it felt for them like a message that they weren't welcomed there."

In 2020, the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency issued a report, which highlighted affordable housing shortages within the state.

Green noted the Mandan case does not send a good message when North Dakota is trying to recruit residents to fill jobs.

"Losing access to housing means you lose access to community, jobs, good schools," Green added. "We want families of all sizes and types and in all neighborhoods, we want that to be the norm."