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by Robin Gerber, AARP Bulletin, December 2009
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts began its review by acknowledging that, because of Ginda Shkolnik’s physical problems, the Andover Housing Authority could not discriminate against her. That meant that under the Fair Housing Act, the court said, “reasonable accommodations” must be made if they are necessary to “afford a handicapped person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”
Once the Shkolniks made the housing authority aware of Ginda’s disability, the authority had a duty to participate in an “interactive process” to determine the best way to meet her needs, the court said. Although the housing authority refused to quit or delay the eviction proceedings, the court held that the authority had made every effort to find out about Ginda’s health and engage in an interactive process to accommodate her at Frye Circle. The housing authority had numerous communications with the Shkolniks and their son, and also responded quickly to the Shkolniks’ suggestions for physical modifications to the apartment, though the answers were not the ones the Shkolniks wanted.
They had their chance, the court says
The Shkolniks had an opportunity to eliminate, or seriously reduce, the noise coming from their apartment, the court noted. Joanne Taylor’s continuing complaints indicate that the Shkolniks continued to make noise. The eviction delay the Shkolniks wanted, the court said, might have been reasonable if they had not been disturbing the other tenants. The housing authority had taken all of the steps necessary under the law. “The role of a public housing authority,” the court held, “is to provide housing for as many qualified tenants as possible. Eviction of those who threaten the well-being of the community is a necessary component of that function.”
The Shkolniks were moved out of Frye Circle and into another public housing complex owned by the Andover Housing Authority.
What do you think of the verdict? Let us know in the Community Commentary below.
Robin Gerber is a lawyer and the author of Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her.
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