Saturday, May 30, 2015

City Housing Authority Accused Of Running Five Racially Segregated Rental Housing Complexes Agrees To Cough Up $175K To 19 Discrimination Victims To Settle Fair Housing Charges

The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced:
  • The Justice Department announced [] that the Housing Authority of the city of Ruston, Louisiana, has agreed to pay $175,000 and adopt comprehensive new policies to settle a race discrimination lawsuit filed by the department. The settlement must still be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Robert G. James of the Western District of Louisiana.

    The department’s lawsuit, filed in September 2013, alleged that the Ruston Housing Authority (RHA) had long segregated the 300 apartments in its five public housing developments by assigning vacancies to applicants based on their race, rather than on their place on the waiting list.

    Specifically, the department alleged that the RHA disproportionately assigned white applicants to its two developments that were located in the predominantly white neighborhoods of Ruston—Louise Homes and Maryland Plaza Homes. At the same time, the department alleged, RHA primarily assigned African-American applicants to the complexes located in predominantly African-American neighborhoods—Eastwood Homes, Greenwood Homes and Truman Homes. When it originally began developing housing in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the RHA explicitly reserved Louise Homes and Maryland Plaza for “white” persons, while reserving Greenwood and Truman for what it termed “colored” persons.

    Although the RHA no longer maintained this de jure system, the department alleged that it had continued to segregate its complexes in practice. During the litigation, the former Ruston Housing Authority project manager from 2003 to 2013 admitted in her sworn deposition testimony that on numerous occasions she skipped over earlier applying African-American applicants in order to fill vacancies at Louise Drive Homes with later applying white applicants.

    She also testified that on multiple occasions she did not offer eligible white applicants available apartments in the nearly all-black Eastwood Homes, Greenwood Homes and Truman Homes, but instead offered those units to later-applying African American applicants.

    ***

    [Among other things], the RHA will pay $175,000 to compensate 19 individuals who suffered damages as a result of the RHA passing them over for available housing units because of their race. Additionally, for those 19 victims of the RHA’s discriminatory actions identified in the consent order, the RHA will allow those who are current tenants to request a transfer to another complex on a priority basis. It will also permit those identified individuals who are prior applicants and former tenants to reapply and, upon approval of their applications, give them priority for a unit at a complex of their choice.

    The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination can call the division’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.

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