Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beauregard Legal Remedies

The City of Alexandria and developers, including JBG Corporation, have agreed on a development plan that will cause 7500 people to lose their homes within a short time. The City Planners present this plan as a done deal with no possibility of revision.

Issue: Is the Small Area Plan truly final?

The City Planning Commission claims that the developers have the right to build whatever they want on these properties. The Commission justifies their acquiescence by asserting that the developers plans would be much worse unless the Commission cooperates and enables the plan. This is absolutely untrue. The developers need to acquire building permits from the city for every structure they intend to erect. The city can attach requirements to a building permit so long as the property owner is compensated for the requirements.(1) The city has great latitude in what it requires of a builder of a single structure. The builder in this instance is proposing changes to the basic nature of the property that affect the City's Master Plan and the quality of life of other residents of the neighborhood. The city can add requirements at any time to bring the new construction into line with the Master Plan.

(1) Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, 483 US 825,842.

Issue: Are there any statutes in Virginia that protect the tenants from this action?

The tenants are protected by the Virginia Fair Housing Act, which prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants in the sale or rental of property. 18 VAC 135-50-100(A)(1) Prohibits landlords from assigning any person to a particular section of a community, neighborhood or development or to a particular floor or section of a building because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, elderliness, or national origin.

Issue: Can the developers avoid the Fair Housing Act by donating affordable housing units to the city? 

The developers have offered to donate two buildings to the city to be managed as affordable housing. The developer understands that it cannot segregate classes of people (based on race, color, religion, etc.) from the rest of the population in its development. The developer hopes to evade this legal prohibition by donating the affordable housing buildings to the city. These buildings will no longer form part of the landlord's property and therefore may not violate 18 VAC 35-50-100(A)(1). The effect of this plan will be exactly the same as if the developer owned the affordable housing units, and therefore they will still violate the Fair Housing Act.

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