DOJ settles housing lawsuit against MS newspaper

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Gulfport, Miss., newspaper has agreed to pay $15,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that the newspaper published advertisements for housing that discriminated against families with children, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

In a statement late Tuesday, federal prosecutors said the lawsuit alleged that Penny Pincher, a weekly want-ad newspaper distributed along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the Fair Housing Act or denied rights protected by the act by accepting and publishing 10 advertisements for rental housing that stated illegal preferences against families with children.

“Protecting families with children from discrimination on the basis of familial status is one of the basic tenets of the Fair Housing Act,” said John Dowdy, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi.

The lawsuit, filed in December, arose as a result of complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by a fair housing group and a woman with three children who was searching for housing. The woman’s search led her to Penny Pincher, in which she read an ad offering a house for rent with the proviso, “no children,” the Justice Department said.

The woman contacted Gulf Coast Fair Housing Center, which conducted testing of the property advertised and monitored the advertisements published. After HUD investigated, it issued three charges of discrimination, and referred the charges to the Justice Department.

Under the settlement, which must still be approved by the court, Penny Pincher will pay $10,000 in damages to Gulf Coast Fair Housing Center, $1,500 to the woman affected by the ad and a $3,500 civil penalty to the United States. The settlement also requires Penny Pincher to adopt a non-discrimination policy, to provide its employees with fair housing training, and to provide periodic reports to the Justice Department.

The Associated Press