Journalism in the Public Interest

HUD Finally Stirs on Housing Discrimination

After decades of inaction, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has begun to move against two localities for allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act.


Dallas. (Matthew T Rader via Flickr)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has accused Dallas, one of the nation’s largest cities, of violating civil rights law through housing practices that discriminated against black, Latino and disabled residents.

HUD officials laid out the results of a four-year investigation in a letter sent to city leaders late last month. HUD found that Dallas, which accepted tens of millions in federal dollars with promises of using that money to help integrate the deeply divided city, had instead “subjected persons to segregation” and “restricted access to housing choice.”  The city, the letter said, had denied local residents opportunities to participate in housing programs “because of race, national origin and disability.”

The agency has given the city 30 days to respond to the accusations, which jeopardize millions in annual HUD funding.

HUD’s findings against the country’s 9th largest city cap a year that has seen some of the most substantial developments in federal fair housing enforcement in years. As ProPublica documented in a series that ran late last year, the federal government has spent the last 45 years largely neglecting provisions of the Fair Housing Act that require it to take affirmative steps to eradicate housing segregation. The chief way to do that has been to cut off federal funds to communities that act in ways that maintain or increase housing segregation. But HUD never did.

When President Obama came into office, the nation’s top housing officials vowed to change that. "Until now, we tended to lay dormant," Ron Sims, HUD’s then deputy secretary said in August of 2009. "This is historic, because we are going to hold people's feet to the fire."

Still, little improved during Obama’s first term. That appears to be changing.

While HUD may not have turned into the raging Goliath that activists had hoped, the giant is stirring.  

This year, HUD released a proposed regulation that for the first time clearly defined the steps local and state governments that receive HUD funding must take to show they are complying with the Fair Housing Act. Advocates have waited decades for HUD to issue the rule, which was shelved by the Clinton Administration in the face of objections from counties and cities.

Earlier this year, HUD also released a long-awaited regulation formalizing a national standard for when housing practices violate civil rights law by disproportionately harming racial minorities, the disabled and other protected groups.

HUD’s history has been dominated by its deference to the cities and towns it funnels billions of dollars to -- even those sued by the U.S. Department of Justice and those found guilty by federal judges of violating civil rights. When outside parties have alerted HUD to the ways government officials have discriminated through building and zoning -- such as in the landmark Westchester County, N.Y. fair housing case that settled in 2009 -- HUD hasbeen reticent to get to take serious steps.

That’s why the Dallas findings could be big.

Similar to the Westchester case, HUD was alerted to the possible wrongdoing of Dallas officials by a whistleblower, in this case a developer who’d had affordable housing blocked in a downtown district that is white and affluent. The developer, Curtis Lockey, accused Dallas officials of conspiring to keep black, Latino, and disabled residents out of downtown. Lockey filed a complaint with HUD in February 2010.

HUD refused to get involved with the Westchester case until a federal judge overseeing the case began lambasting HUD for its failures to enforce the Fair Housing Act. But Dallas was different -- HUD investigated and confirmed Lockey’s accusations.

Dallas officials deny wrongdoing.  “The City complies with HUD guidelines and regulations in its work with affordable housing projects,” said a Dallas spokesperson in a statement.

 Before this year no locality had ever lost its HUD dollars over failures to comply with civil rights laws. But this fall, HUD stripped $7.4 million in federal development grants from a Westchester County for failing to comply with the Fair Housing Act.

HUD’s new efforts have caught the attention of major housing industry players who have long opposed heightened fair housing enforcement. Just this week, the American Banker published a piece questioning whether the agency’s hiring of a former National Fair Housing Alliance staffer to handle enforcement represents a conflict of interest. (HUD says there was no conflict.)  By the time the article ran, the HUD official in question, had been heading fair housing enforcement for more than three years.

Too little, too late. HUD is a bloated pork-barrel of WASTE, FRAUD, and ABUSE. Dallas should just COWBOY UP, and admit that fact….

Dallas is a segregated mess. It is about time someone called them their embarrassing behavior!

Its about time for HUD to finally start prosecuting the laws they are mandated to. I cant believe it didn’t take a lawsuit against HUD to make them do this. This signals progress.

HUD’s mandates are clearly layed out in the Administrative Procedures Act.

HUD has made the city develop so fast. receive HUD funding must take to show they are complying with the Fair Housing Act.

Marvin S. Robinson, II

Dec. 12, 2013, 8:30 p.m.

HUD and the Housing Authority in our metropolitan area of greater KC OPENLY and FLAGRANTLY - completely disregard SECTION 3.  Those in EXTREME POVERTY and VETERANS are never even permitted to participate with substantial and meaningful compliance with HUD, let alone local, nor state governmental institutions.
FOR example in KC: one of the most influential Public Administrators who manages “PROBATE COURT” proceedings is a member of HOUSING AUTHORITY; while his WIFE, works for the county’s PERSONAL PROPERTY REAL ESTATE APPRAISALS Department, and the manipulate the low- INCOME BLACK northeastern section of the community into utter “destitute HOMELESSNESS”, through the guise of “Over-exaggerated APPRAISALS” and notify and alert the UTILITY companies to block and deny UTILITY services, : IF you come up with enough money to pay on the EXTREME Over Priced Personal Property Real Estate TAXES.
So all we can do is continue to be another account of numbers in their Unannounced “NEGRO REMOVAL Plans”.  And oh YEAH, worry the ‘HELL out- the telephone PRAYER - LINES” 
Because in SUMMARY, it is only God, that can spare US and give the mercy and strength to endure the CRUELTIES of the damn near Unseen actions: of “STRUCTURAL VIOLENCE” in Real-TIME.
THANK Pro- PUBLIC and God BLESS yALL, for publishing this article-

Marvin S. Robinson, II
Quindaro Ruins / Underground Railroad- Exercise 2014

Is it me or are all of the lawsuits directed at cities and towns which, for whatever reason, officially oppose the construction of new low-income housing?  This is chilling to say the least.  New low income housing is not always what is necessary in a neighborhood.  In many cases, the money would be better spent to stabilize or improve existing housing stock, or address food deserts by building a supermarket, or address isolation with improved transit.  Will cities now be sued if they tell an out of town developer “we don’t need your housing development here, but we would love it if you helped out with this public clinic we’re trying to build?”
Another thing:  elected officials don’t deny low income housing applications in a vacuum.  It’s a highly political thing, and giving in to HUD requirements can cost an elected official his job.  Just ask lawyer and former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski.  From what I saw in the comments on the Dallas Mornig News article about this lawsuit, I bet the same dynamics are at work there.  It’s an aspect of the story that ProPublica really ought to look at.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Segregation Now

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Investigating America’s racial divide in education, housing and beyond.

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