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Multi-state housing complaint has roots in west Michigan

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A multi-state fair housing complaint filed against an Indianapolis-based rental management company began in west Michigan.

The complaint alleges systemic discrimination by Apartment Management Professionals or AMP Residential, based on familial status. It was filed with federal housing officials by the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan and four other agencies in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

Elizabeth Stoddard is the center’s director of advocacy.

She says the heart of the complaint is a policy – no more than four people in a two-bedroom property – that unfairly impacts families with children.

"The vast majority of [five-person] households in our area are families with children," Stoddard says. "And so this is a case under the disparate impact theory of the fair housing act. Which means that the resulting effect of this policy is discriminatory.”

Stoddard says the investigation began locally last year, and eventually expanded into three states.

Other west Michigan AMP rentals cited include properties in Kent, Ottawa and Kalamazoo counties.

"And we found that this two-person per bedroom limit was enforced across-the-board at all of the properties. Regardless of how large they are, regardless of the layout," Stoddard says. "In one case there was a two-bedroom townhome that – I think it had three stories, and they would not allow a family of five to rent there."

Stoddard says it's a rising issue in west Michigan, compounded by a crunched housing market and lack of affordable units.

The center says disability and familial status made up the majority of local complaints in 2015.

"So to push a family into a larger unit, or to tell them that there’s nothing available for them because they need a larger unit – without some kind of legitimate business justification behind that – is a real detriment to families," she says. "And a real limitation on housing choice for families in our area."

AMP’s website says it manages more than 30 residential communities in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Alabama.

An email seeking comment from the company was not returned.

Hilary is a General Assignment and Enterprise reporter for WGVU Public Media. She joined WGVU in September 2014 after several years of experience as a local news reporter, anchor and photojournalist in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties. She's also worked as a financial and business reporter and audio field producer.
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