By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
A few months ago, readers learned about a new swimming pool policy at A Country Place Condominium Association in New Jersey. You might recall that the condo board at A Country Place, Lakewood, NJ, enacted new swimming pool restrictions in favor of Orthodox Jewish majority members. During most of its opening hours, the pool is restricted with separate swimming hours for men and women. The Association now limits coed swimming to Saturdays (Sabbath) and from 1 -3 PM the remaining days of the week.
This week, the story has been picked up by CBS and AP (Associated Press), because two condo owners have filed a lawsuit against their Association, citing violation of Fair Housing Laws.
New Jersey homeowners sue condo association over coed swimming rules (CBS News)
Homeowners: Quash adult community’s coed swim limits (AP, The Big Story)
Residential Associations with private pools and recreational facilities have been enacting questionable rules and restrictions upon their use for many years. For example, plenty of HOAs have restricted when and if children and teens can swim in the pool. Others have allowed the local swim team to lease the pool frequently, making it difficult for condo owners to swim at convenient times. In still other cases, the Association refuses to install modifications for its members with disabilities.
And looking back at the early history of Association Governed Housing, it’s important to note a primary purpose of restrictive covenants and private amenities during the years of “white flight” from cities to suburbs following the passage of Civil Rights legislation. Private community pools – and other exclusive recreational amenities – created a legal way to perpetuate racial and religious segregation, all in the interest of “protecting and enhancing property values.”
Of course, over the years, the population of the U.S. has become more diverse, and people have migrated to different communities and neighborhoods. A Country Place Condominium Association has now transitioned to a popular enclave for Orthodox Jews.
And with its majority interests serving on the condo board at A Country Place, the group believes it has the right to exclude non-Orthodox, non-Jewish neighbors from swimming in the pool during more than half of its opening hours.
Will the court uphold the condo association’s right to enact its new swimming pool policy or deem those restrictions to be a violation of Civil Rights?
This is an interesting legal challenge, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on disparate impact as it pertains to Fair Housing. Even if the condo board has not intended to discriminate against non-Orthodox Jews, will the court find that the effect of its pool restrictions was, in fact, discriminatory?