Saturday, October 15, 2016

HUD, Mississippi Municipality Reach Settlement In Fair Housing Lawsuit Accusing City Of Using "Agressive Code Enforcement Regime", Passing Lower Density Restrictions In Zoning, Land Use Ordinances In Attempt To 'Bleach' Minority-Populated Area Of Blacks, Latinos

In Ridgeland, Mississippi, the Jackson Free Press reports:
  • Just a few months after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development filed a complaint against the City of Ridgeland for alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act, it announced a conciliatory agreement with that city []. In its Dec. 20, 2015, complaint, HUD alleged that Ridgeland's 2014 Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance engaged in "unlawful discrimination based on race in its ongoing 'amortization,' condemnation, and threatened removal" of five apartment complexes and the "rezoning of approximately nine."

    Suburban Ridgeland annexed its southeastern corner from the City of Jackson in 1981 and, from 1990 to 2010, saw its population of color drastically increase. HUD alleges in the complaint that Ridgeland has prioritized the redevelopment of that majority black area since 2006, with the mayor and board of aldermen selecting an all-white Community Awareness Committee for the purpose. Then, HUD says, the City implemented an "aggressive code enforcement regime" for those apartments in 2010. When that failed, Ridgeland adopted its 2014 Ordinance and largely blocked apartments' efforts to come up to code in another attempt to bleach the area.(1)
    The Mississippi Center for Justice, a legal advocacy group, in conjunction with legal group Venable LLP, also filed a complaint against the City of Ridgeland on behalf of the denizens of some of the apartment complexes in southeast Ridgeland this February, also for Fair Housing Act violations.

    "We're thrilled with the conciliation," John Jopling, managing attorney for the Mississippi Center for Justice, told the Jackson Free Press. "It really does vindicate the basics of our lawsuit, which is the Fair Housing Act and the disproportionate impact the zoning ordinance had on African American and Latino residents." Jopling says the Mississippi Center for Justice has to confer with its partners and clients over the future of the lawsuit.

    Among its responsibilities in the HUD settlement, Ridgeland must amend the 2014 Zoning Ordinance and appoint a fair housing compliance officer.
For more, see Ridgeland, HUD Reach Settlement in 'Shifting Demographics' Dispute.
(1) See HUD Announces Agreement With Ridgeland, Mississippi To Settle Discriminatory Zoning Complaint:
  • [I]n December of 2015, HUD filed a fair housing complaint against the city after receiving reports that a number of apartment complexes faced possible demolition after the city instituted a new zoning requirement that lowered the allowable density.

    Specifically, HUD complained the city’s new zoning ordinance called for several of the apartment complexes with the highest minority populations to be amortized, putting more than 1,400 units at risk of being replaced with mixed-use developments. HUD also alleged that other majority minority complexes were subjected to lower density restrictions, which could have resulted in a loss of hundreds of additional apartment units.

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