It is a violation of federal law to publish ads that restrict housing applicants by race, sex, color, religion, or national origin. However, such ads have popped up on several post-Katrina-related websites, including nola.com, the official website of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Other sites that violate the law are dhronline.org and katrinahousing.org, Katrinahousing.org, in fact, was singled out by FEMA for praise for its contribution in helping with the housing crisis.
People will no doubt use the “this is an emergency” excuse to let the offending websites get by, but if we do not protect people’s rights during an emergency, what is the point of protecting them at all? FEMA is so out of touch that it comes as no surprise it would praise a site without taking a closer look at it. For the Times-Picayune to publish a site that violates federal fair housing laws, however, is inexcusable and a further embarrassment to New Orleans.
The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center has filed a complaint, and at least one of the sites has closed down.