Design Place Addresses Some Complaints Raised in Discrimination Lawsuit

A nonprofit organization that fights housing discrimination recently scored a partial court victory against SPV Realty, the New York-based company that owns Little Haiti apartment complex Design Place. HOPE Fair Housing Center is suing SPV in Miami federal court, alleging the rental real estate firm discriminates against African-American renters.

On January 24, U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonga ordered SPV to post signs explaining the Fair Housing Act throughout the complex, including the leasing office, stop using advertisements that depict only Caucasian people, and make sure all the ads contain a declaration against discrimination of anyone based on race, creed, or color.

"Plaintiffs have made a strong showing as to each of the claimed violations," Altonga wrote in her order.

SPV owner George Dfouni -- whose ads for Design Place claim it is located in the Design District -- did not return a call seeking comment, but in a previous interview he flatly denied shunning African-Americans. "The allegations are false," Dfouni said at the time. "You can't discriminate, especially in Miami."

According to court documents, SPV claims it had already implemented the measures in Altonga's order prior to her ruling. However, the judge did not grant HOPE's request to take away management of Design Place from SPV.

The company ran into trouble after HOPE sent three black people and three white people to Design Place in October to find out how they would be treated by SPV rental agents. While the white apartment seekers were given tours and told units were available, the black testers were told there were no vacancies and were not offered to look at any apartments.

A trial is still pending.

Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.

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