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Residents protest The Collier Companies after claims of discrimination

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 10:15 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Alachua County human rights organization protested in front of The Collier Companies, claiming they are discriminating against disabled tenants and violating a Gainesville ordinance.

In February Temisha Ferguson, who uses a housing voucher to pay her rent, received a letter saying her lease at Biven’s Cove owned by The Collier Companies would not be renewed after living there for five years.

Her mother Sharon Burney said Ferguson receives housing vouchers, due to her disabilities.

“My daughter is disabled, she’s a fighter, she survived two commas and life support,” Burney said.

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Burney said management told her it was because they plan to renovate the apartment. She asked if they could pay the difference that would be left after the voucher was used.

“She said ‘oh yea I understand they just want to renovate but they also don’t want to take any outside payments.”

She reached out to the Alachua County Labor Coalition, city commissioners and the NAACP, which sparked a protest with about 30 attendees.

A Gainesville ordinance, that was cited by the Labor Coalition, prohibits landlords from discriminating based on source of income.

The labor coalition’s co-chair, Sheila Payne, claims the Biven’s Cove FAQs page had the question “Do you accept HUD or Section 8?” and was answered with “We no longer accept that program at this property.” The statement was taken down before the protest.

“Saying that you’re ignorant of that law is not an excuse and we do know that collier property knew the law because everyone who rents was sent notices about it,” Payne said.

After reaching out to the office multiple times and with the help of the labor coalition, The Collier Companies have agreed to accept Ferguson’s housing voucher but her mother still has a message that housing equals human rights especially for those most vulnerable.

“I think what you’re doing is you’re discriminating against a group of people who some of them are the most vulnerable amongst us,” Burney said.

She’s also requested upgrades to her daughter’s apartment that have not been made, so her fight continues.

“That’s the first step,” Burney said. “The next step is to get her apartment up to accessibility standards as possible.”

TV20 reached out to the collier companies and have not received a response

For more information about the anti discrimination ordinance, click HERE.

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