Sunday, November 20, 2016

Settlement Of Recent Civil Rights Complaint Against Housing Authority Gives Over 1,000 East Chicago Tenants More Time To Move From Lead/Arsenic-Contaminated Public Housing Project Built On Site Of Former Lead Smelter, Will Live Rent-Free Until They Find New Digs

In East Chicago, Indiana, the Northwest Indiana Times reports:
  • Families living at the lead- and arsenic- contaminated West Calumet Housing Complex will have more time to move and no longer have to pay rent under a civil rights settlement reached [earlier this month] between the East Chicago Housing Authority and a Chicago-based fair housing organization.(1)

    The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law first filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Aug. 29 on behalf of six former and current residents and a coalition of concerned citizens, Calumet Lives Matter.

    The complaint alleged the East Chicago Housing Authority — uncommitted at that time to covering security deposits, moving expenses and assisting with the housing search — was noncompliant with federal law.

    Katherine Walz, director of housing justice with the Shriver Center, said the agreement — which also offers protections to eligible former residents — represents the organization’s “collective best efforts” to protect families.

    “The hard-fought battle was by the residents themselves,” Walz said Friday. “You can’t imagine how difficult it is to sue the very program that provides you housing.”

    Residents are calling the agreement — approved [] by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — a significant victory for the more than 1,000 being forced to relocate from the complex, which was built in the early 1970s on the footprint of a former lead smelter. The complex and Carrie Gosch Elementary School are part of the first zone of an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.
    ***
    Under the agreement, residents have until March 31 to find housing and will receive assistance with the search. The local Housing Authority also agreed to waive rent owed between July 22 and March 31, 2017, and reimburse any rent paid for this month. They also cannot be evicted, threatened with eviction or charged with late fees.

    ECHA will offer relocation benefits to eligible residents, including those who moved out before city officials announced last summer the soil contained unsafe levels of lead and arsenic.

    Residents who moved out before the announcement will qualify for benefits if they can demonstrate they left because of lead- or arsenic- related health concerns or have children younger than 6.
For more, see Civil rights deal gives East Chicago residents more time to move.
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(1) See HUD Approves Settlement Between East Chicago Housing Authority And Fair Housing Organization (Agreement resolves discrimination claims based on race, color, national origin, familial status and disability):
  • [T]he Shriver Center’s complaints alleged the housing authority engaged in discriminatory housing practices in its management of the relocation because residents were being moved into poor, segregated communities with similar or serious levels of environmental contaminations. The agreement resolves the complaints and serves as the foundation to ensure residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex are relocated in a coordinated manner to safe housing in areas of opportunity. epa environmental protection agency

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