The lawsuit had lingered in court for years until 2005, when a federal judge sided with housing advocates, and ruled that federal officials should have looked beyond the borders of Baltimore to relocate the public housing residents.

But U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis didn't provide remedies for the problem — setting the stage for additional years of court proceedings.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the settlement was a positive development. It releases Baltimore and the city housing authority from a partial consent decree issued in the case in the 1990s, without adding additional significant financial burdens. The decree required up to 40 public housing rental units be placed in city neighborhoods to disperse the poor.

The lawsuit has also cost the city millions of dollars in legal fees and relocation expenses over the years.

"After nearly two decades of litigation and court-ordered restrictions, Baltimore is now able to move forward, put this lawsuit behind us, and work with HUD to increase fair housing opportunities for low-income families," she said in a statement.

Officials with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City said they are also glad the case is resolved.

"We are pleased that the issues resolved through the settlement … will increase choices for vulnerable families including building upon the success of the mobility program," Paul T. Graziano, executive director of the housing authority said in a statement. "This program has assisted hundreds of families in exercising housing options not previously available to them."

Member organizations of the Baltimore Regional Housing Campaign, a coalition of housing advocates, applauded the decision.

Patrick Maier, executive director of the Innovative Housing Institute, which promotes quality affordable housing, said people often can't find such housing in growing areas where moderate-wage jobs are available.

The institute once helped manage the housing mobility program, and Maier said he saw firsthand how it changed people's lives.

"In many cases, they blossomed," he said. "Their children were able to play outside."

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

aknezevich@baltsun.com

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