Debevoise Files Lawsuit Challenging Conversion of the Acre Road Public Housing Development in Louisiana

4 May 2023

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Marrero Tenants Organization (MTO) and three individuals against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), arguing the unlawfulness of the demolition and conversion plans of the Acre Road public housing development in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, a development with a rich history of advocacy by its tenants to integrate public housing in the 1960s and 1970s. The firm is representing the plaintiffs pro bono, alongside the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.

The lawsuit argues that the HUD’s approval of the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority’s conversion plan has had discriminatory effects on Black households in the development, including displacing them and forcing them to move to equally or more racially segregated, high poverty areas, in violation of HUD’s obligations under the Fair Housing Act to advance fair housing. Further, the action challenges a HUD notice issued in 2019 without providing notice and an opportunity for interested parties to comment under which HUD approved the Acre Road conversion. The rule authorizes small public housing agencies to convert their remaining properties to tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher assistance without first requiring an analysis to determine the impact of a conversion on displaced residents, their neighborhood, and the local rental market, an omission plaintiffs contend is unlawful and will result in HUD’s approval of public housing conversions that perpetuate existing segregation patterns. Additionally, plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction against HUD to ensure Acre Road’s administrator will not issue 90-day vacate notices to the families living in Acre Road while the lawfulness of HUD’s actions is adjudicated. These families have been unable to secure alternative, affordable housing using Housing Choice Vouchers and will likely be homeless if forced to vacate.

The Debevoise team is led by litigation counsel Jehan Patterson and includes associates Valerie Zuckerman, Caroline Grueskin, and Anu Chugh.