Justice Department Settles Racial Discrimination Suit With Alabama Housing Authority

Justice Department Settles Racial Discrimination Suit With Alabama Housing Authority

The Justice Department (DoJ) has settled a racial discrimination lawsuit against an Alabama Housing Authority that was accused of pushing Black residents away from white neighborhoods.

AL.com reported that a federal judge approved a consent decree resolving the racial discrimination claims against the Housing Authority of Ashland, the private owners, and an agent of two of its low-income communities.

The DoJ filed the suit in 2020, accusing the housing authority and others of maintaining largely segregated housing and pushing residents to different communities based on race since at least 2012.

The authority steered Black applicants away from four significantly white communities (Ashland Heights I, Ashland Heights II, East Side and Clay Circle) and toward two predominantly Black communities (West Side and Pine View).

According to the lawsuit, Black residents make up 30% of all the housing authority’s tenants but accounted for 65% and 73% of residents at West Side and Pine View. The housing authority and its owners disputed the claims but agreed to the settlement with the DoJ to move forward.

“Racial steering is a patently unlawful practice that destabilizes communities, fuels racial tensions, and perpetuates modern-day racial segregation in communities across the country,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Civil Rights Division in a DoJ release.

“Racial steering violates federal law, and runs contrary to the principles of equal housing opportunity that animated the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought to bring an end to practices that locked Black people out of certain communities. This resolution should send a strong message to housing providers— both public and private—that they will be held responsible when they engage in unlawful conduct that violates the Fair Housing Act.”

Under the consent decree, the defendants will pay $275,000 in damages to 23 current and former tenants, pay a civil penalty, implement new policies and procedures, undergo fair housing training, and submit compliance reports to the DoJ. The defendants are also required to contact 145 individuals who applied to Ashland Heights I and II but were not placed on waiting lists, and offer them spots based on their original date of application if they still qualify.