DAVIE — Representatives of an apartment complex discouraged black people from moving in and, as a selling point to white people, said there were no black tenants, according to a lawsuit that the U.S. Department of Justice filed Aug. 13.
The lawsuit was filed against C.F. Enterprises, LLC and Don Murroni, accusing them of violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against African Americans in the rental units at College Square Apartments.
Despite several attempts to reach Murroni, who is listed in the lawsuit as the apartments’ property manager, and C.F. Enterprises, which owns and operates the 64 one- and two-bedroom units, neither defendant returned calls from the South Florida Times.
The Justice Department filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami.
According to the complaint and demand for a jury trial:
The Justice Department conducted a series of tests in 2007 to evaluate the defendants’ compliance with the Fair Housing Act.
The testing consisted of a series of simulated housing transactions that compared responses from housing providers to different types of home seekers to determine if discrimination was occurring. People of different races posing as renters went to the complex to see what kind of responses they would receive.
The testing revealed that the defendants at College Square Apartments, at 6600 and 6650 SW 39th Street in Davie, are engaging in housing practices that discriminate on the basis of race or color.
The Justice Department also determined that the apartment complex denied the availability of apartments to African Americans while telling white people that apartments were available.
The apartment complex also discouraged African Americans from applying for an apartment while encouraging white people to apply, and offered to waive application fees or other costs for white people while failing to make similar offers to African Americans.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Veronica Harrell-James, one of four named counsels for the plaintiff (the United States of America) in the case, said that because of “local rules and guidelines set forth by the DOJ regarding pending matters, no statement can be made at this time.”
Marsha Ellison, president of the NAACP’s Fort Lauderdale branch, said that although the NAACP has not received any recent calls alleging housing discrimination, “This is not an isolated case. It happens every day, and is covert.”
Ellison also said the Fort Lauderdale NAACP’s legal redress committee is currently reviewing past cases and sending them to the Department of Justice.
Davie has a history of racial unrest.
The Ku Klux Klan used to hold rallies in Davie. As recently as 1993, the KKK marched in Davie to protest the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and Haitian immigration, according to a story published on Aug. 28, 2000 in the SunSentinel.
The SunSentinel, citing census data, reported on Aug. 14 that the black population of Davie is about 4 percent of the town’s total population. By contrast, the black population in all of Broward County is around 26 percent, the newspaper reported.
Justice Department officials are encouraging anyone who believes he or she has experienced housing discrimination at College Square Apartments to contact them at 800-896-7743, extension 992, or the U.S. Attorney’s Office at 305-961-9327.
Photo: College Square Apartments