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09.22.2021

Relman Colfax has filed a lawsuit in New Hampshire federal court, alleging that the Town of Brookline and its agencies violated the Fair Housing Act when they resisted the development of an 80-unit affordable “workforce housing” development proposed by Brookline Opportunities, LLC. The Complaint alleges discrimination on the basis of familial status, race and national origin. The Town is 93% White, with very small African American and Latino populations. Household median income is $141,875, nearly twice the statewide average.

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 as follows: A group of vocal Town residents used a special “Town Meeting”— where residents attending constitute the Town legislature and can adopt new zoning and land use restrictions—to impose a one-year moratorium on workforce housing, effectively shutting down Brookline Opportunities’ ability to build. The moratorium and associated development restrictions were premised on the faulty assertions that the local public schools could not accommodate more children, and that the Town had already met its fair share obligation with respect to workforce housing. In fact, school enrollment declined more than 12% from 2008 to 2020, and classroom sizes are well below state standards. Further, while the Nashua Regional Planning Commission determined that the Town’s fair share of workforce units is approximately 800, not a single such unit has ever been built in the Town.

The complaint, which seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, damages and attorneys’ fees, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.

The Relman Colfax team consists of Reed Colfax and Michael Allen, with paralegal assistance from Charlotte Saltzman. Our co-counsel is Megan Carrier of Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green, PA in Manchester, New Hampshire.

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