The city of Maplewood is under fire after a non-profit group alleged the city's housing laws are discriminatory and a threat to domestic violence victims.
In a lawsuit filed this week, the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council (EHOC) challenged Maplewood’s “chronic nuisance ordinance.”
Residences in Maplewood can be deemed a nuisance for many reasons, but EHOC takes particular concern with details related to police calls. According to the lawsuit, a residence could be considered a nuisance if there are more than two instances within a 180-day period (about six months) of “peace disturbance or domestic violence resulting in calls to police.”
EHOC said residents deemed a nuisance can lose their Maplewood occupancy permit resulting in them no longer being allowed to live in the city.
“Although Maplewood claims this promotes public safety, this chronic nuisance ordinance does no such thing, we believe” said Will Jordan, the Executive Director of St. Louis Metro EHOC. “Instead, it makes the community less safe by discouraging crime victims and other residents from contacting the police.”
EHOC said it reviewed 43 nuisance cases in Maplewood from March 2010 to August 2015. In 34 of the cases, the EHOC could determine the race of the individual involved. More than half of the nuisance enforcement was taken against African American residents, which the lawsuit said was much higher than the 17 percent African-American population of the city.
EHOC also said nuisance enforcement was taken against a large number of domestic violence survivors and people with disabilities.
An attorney from EHOC said the data was obtained through Sunshine Requests to the city of Maplewood.
Maplewood City manager, Marty Corcoran, said the city just learned about the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon.
Corcoran said the city does not initiate nuisance complaints, but he could not comment on the lawsuit until he had a chance to fully read it.
Corcoran said the city did not have any recent conversation with EHOC about the nuisance ordinance.
EHOC said the goal of the lawsuit is to change the ordinance in Maplewood, and other jurisdictions with similar rules.