On September 21, 2021, Relman Colfax filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the Town of Brookline, New Hampshire, its Planning Board, and its Selectboard discriminated on the basis of familial status, race and national origin—in violation of the Fair Housing Act—when they resisted the development of an 80-unit affordable “workforce housing” development proposed by Brookline Opportunities, LLC. The Town is 93% White, with very small African-American and Latino populations, has a high per household median income, and very few rental units.

Brookline Opportunities proposed to seek Low Income Housing Tax Credit financing, and to make 75% of the units affordable to families at 60% of median income, and some to families at 30% of median income. Because of the affordability provisions and the dearth of affordable units in the region, these units are likely to attract African-American and Latino families searching for such units and for high-performing public schools, such as those in Brookline.

The Complaint alleges the following: Shortly after some vocal Town residents learned of the proposal, they began a forceful campaign to prevent the development. The explicit basis for their opposition was the erroneous claim that the public schools lacked the capacity to educate the children whose families would live in the development. In fact, school enrollment declined more than 12% from 2008 to 2020, and classroom sizes are well below state standards. Opponents also falsely claimed that the Town had already met its regional fair share obligation for workforce housing—estimated by the Nashua Regional Planning Commission to be 800 units for Brookline alone. In fact, not a single workforce housing unit has been built in the Town.

Through a special session of Town Meeting—where residents attending constitute the Town legislature and can adopt new zoning and land use restrictions—opponents secured a one-year moratorium on workforce housing which, the complaint alleges, was aimed at our clients’ proposed housing. Town Meeting also approved other limitations that effectively make it impossible to develop any affordable workforce housing in the Town. As a consequence, the development cannot move forward.

In September 2021, Brookline Opportunities filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and damages. In December of 2022, Defendants moved for summary judgment on all Plaintiffs’ claims, and Plaintiffs moved on a narrow set of claims. In July 2023, the Court denied both parties’ motions, allowing Plaintiffs’ claims to proceed to trial. That trial is currently set for January 2024.

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