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Lead-Level Discrimination Suit Settled

Two Baltimore mothers and the non-profit fair-housing group Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. settled have their suit against Northern Brokerage Co. for refusing to rent to families with young children who have high levels of lead in their blood.As part of the settlement, Northern Brokerage will discontinue its practice of requiring lead testing for children under the age of 6 and will pay $13,000 in damages to plaintiffs Christina Johnson and Sharvett Lee and their attorneys.The suit was filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court.“The important aspect of this case is that families with children are not denied adequate and affordable housing,” said Joe Coffey, executive director of BNI, in a statement announcing the settlement. “A message is sent to the landlords that the housing they provide must be habitable and safe for families with young children.”Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, called the settlement “excellent news.” Northern Brokerage’s former practice “makes double victims of children who have been poisoned and are in desperate need of safe housing,” Norton said in a statement.According to BNI, the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination against families with minor children and does nothing to ensure that children living in Northern Brokerage properties are safe from the dangers of lead poisoning.The plaintiffs are represented by C. Christopher Brown and Deborah T. Fleischaker of the Baltimore firm of Brown, Goldstein & Levy.