In the early morning hours of October 6, 2003, an electrical fire erupted in the 'D' building at the Kennedy Homes Apartment Complex in Gainesville, Florida, causing the evacuation of its 142 families, 98% of whom were African-American. The fire was strikingly similar to a fire in the 'A' building three years before. The owners, who received nearly a million dollars annually from HUD to operate the facility for low-income families, gave assurances that the complex would be properly repaired and that it would remain in existence until 2009. Two months later, it was closed forever.
Kennedy Homes was built in 1968 as part of the "War" on poverty initiated by John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. There are thousands of such complexes across the country. Many are badly deteriorated as a result of age and lack of proper care. What happened at Kennedy Homes is indicative of what is likely to happen at many more such facilities as they continue to deteriorate.
Attorneys from the Three Rivers Legal Services program filed suit against AIMCO, the largest owner and manager of subsidized properties in the United States, and others, claiming, among other things, that the fire resulted from grossly negligent management practices, that the closure had a "disparate impact" on African-Americans, and that the landlords breached their promise to provide 'safe, sanitary and decent housing for their tenants. This book chronicles the ensuing five year battle.