HUD: Michigan community barring non-Christians isn't exempt from fair housing rules

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ruled Wednesday that a Michigan community barring non-Christian homeowners has failed to prove it is exempt from fair housing laws.

The Bay View Association is home to more than 400 privately owned cottages in northern Michigan, which the community says can only be owned by Christians, according to Interlochen Public Radio, a member of the National Public Radio network.

More than 15 complaints were filed against Bay View with HUD in 2016, arguing that the association had violated the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits religious discrimination for housing.

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Bay View is allowed, per an 1889 state law, to appoint a board of assessors and to deputize its own marshal. In 1959, the community rolled back a requirement that all home owners be Caucasian, though its religion restrictions remain.

The association has long argued that it can limit homeownership to Christians because it is a religious organization. But in a letter to complainants and Bay View’s attorney, an enforcement branch chief in HUD's Midwest Regional Office disagreed.

"This letter is regarding the above complaint alleging that acts of discrimination have been committed in violation of the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (the 'Act')," the chief wrote. "The United State Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Region V, has determined that the Respondent Bay View Association has not met its burden to prove it is exempt from the federal Fair Housing Act. The investigation into the violations alleged by the Complainants shall now commence."

The complaints, which are separate from a federal lawsuit, are set to appear before a judge in July, according to the local news outlet.