|Home | En Español | Contact Us | A to Z|
HUD Archives: News Releases
CUOMO ANNOUNCES HOUSING DISCRIMINATION CHARGES INVOLVING BOSTON HOUSING AUTHORITY AND APARTMENT IN NILES, ILLINOIS
WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today announced housing discrimination charges against the Boston Housing Authority dealing with racial and ethnic harassment from 1992 to 1996, and announced a settlement of housing discrimination charges against an apartment complex in Niles, Illinois.
"Housing discrimination is an ugly part of our nation's past that has no place in America today," Cuomo said. "We can't allow families to be terrorized by racial and ethnic harassment that prevents them from living in any home and in any neighborhood in this country."
HUD's charges filed today against the Boston Housing Authority say the BHA failed to protect minority families in two public housing developments from "pervasive racial and ethnic harassment" and failed to stop the harassment, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, from 1992 to 1996.
Cuomo said he has asked HUD Special Counsel for Civil Rights Mercedes Marquez to review the BHA's progress since 1996 in improving its response to racial and ethnic harassment. Marquez will make recommendations to Cuomo within 30 days on whether HUD should take additional action to include steps regarding the BHA's funding eligibility, and HUD policies and activities such as monitoring and compliance.
To help other housing authorities around the country combat housing discrimination, HUD will hold a Healing Neighborhoods Conference in March to train housing authorities and communities on "best practices" dealing with the problem. This conference was developed in response to lessons learned and problems identified in communities such as Boston. The BHA has been asked to participate in a panel discussion at the conference.
HUD's housing discrimination charges settled in Niles involved a complaint by a single mother who was told by an apartment manager that she could not rent a unit in an apartment complex because she had a 3-year-old daughter. After HUD filed housing discrimination charges, an Administrative Law Judge approved a settlement under which the apartment owners agreed this month to pay the woman and the Interfaith Fair Housing Center a total of $26,500 in damages and attorney fees to settle the case.
The women in both the Boston and Niles cases asked not to be publicly identified.
Cuomo was joined at a news conference today by William "Craig" Smith and his wife, Gloria - a black couple from Belle, WV, who earlier filed a fair housing complaint with HUD. The Smiths said members of the John Hobbs family living next door barricaded the path leading to the Smith's land; threatened them with a gun and knife; and intimidated them by hanging black plastic ducks from a cross.
HUD filed civil charges on behalf of the Smiths in 1997 against the Hobbs family. A U.S. District Court jury this month ordered the Hobbs to pay $10,000 in punitive damages to the Smiths.
Here are details of the cases announced today:
HUD today charged the BHA with failing to take action to protect nine minority families in the Bunker Hill and Old Colony public housing developments from racial and ethnic harassment, failing to stop the harassment, and failing to transfer the victims of the harassment to safe housing environments between 1992 and 1996. Both public housing developments were virtually all white as recently as the late 1980s, but many minorities have moved in since then as a result of desegregation efforts.
The discrimination charges HUD brought on behalf of the nine families will be heard by a HUD Administrative Law Judge unless any of the parties involved choose to have the case heard by a U.S. District Court Judge. Those involved in the case could also reach a negotiated settlement. The Boston Lawyers Committee is representing the women and their families and is seeking damages and other relief on their behalf.
The nine families, including 25 children, complained to the BHA that they were repeatedly harassed by white people who did not want minorities living in the two public housing developments.
The complaints by the women accused the BHA of failing to take action on their behalf to address a broad range of actions against the minority families, including: beatings of minority children; firing a BB gun into a 7-year-old boy's bedroom in one case; breaking car windows and slashing tires; setting fires outside a woman's apartment; writing racial and ethnic slurs (including "nigger," "spic" and swastikas) on apartment doors and other areas in the developments; repeatedly confronting minorities with verbal racial and ethnic slurs; and depositing human waste outside the front doors of minority apartments.
Some of the women said they were forced to abandon their apartments and some said they feared letting their children play outside.
Six of the women filing the complaints are black and three are Hispanic. Seven lived in Old Colony and two lived in Bunker Hill. All moved out of the developments where the harassment took place by 1997.
The charges filed today against the Boston Housing Authority are the first HUD has ever filed involving "systemic discrimination" - discrimination that is not limited to isolated or individual families, but represents a failure of an institution to implement policies and practices against housing discrimination.
In the Niles housing discrimination case, a woman said she was denied the opportunity to rent an apartment she wanted to occupy with her daughter when she was told by the manager that the complex did not rent to families with children because the apartments had only one exit, which posed a fire hazard.
Apartment Manager Andrea Mooney later admitted she did not rent to families with children, and interviews with apartment residents confirmed that was the policy.
A second complaint was filed by the Interfaith Fair Housing Center, a HUD-funded group, which conducted four tests at the apartment complex showing discrimination against families with children.
Under a consent order approved this month, Irwin Siegal and Muriel Lippman - who owned the apartment complex at 7920 Caldwell in Niles at the time of the incident - agreed with Mooney to pay $26,500.
THE FAIR HOUSING ACT
The Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status and national origin. The Act covers the sale, rental, financing and advertising of almost all housing in the nation.
Fair housing investigations are conducted by HUD investigators, state and city agencies working with HUD, and private fair housing groups that receive HUD funds.
HUD launched a crackdown on housing discrimination nationwide last year at President Clinton's direction, as part of the President's One America initiative. HUD has doubled its enforcement actions involving housing discrimination to a rate of 60 to 70 per month, compared with less than 30 enforcement actions per month during the Clinton Administration's first term.
Funding for programs to fight housing discrimination was raised from $30 million in HUD's 1998 budget to $40 million in 1999. Under the President's proposed Fiscal Year 2000 budget, funding for the programs would rise to $47 million next year.
People who believe they have been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777 or on the Internet at http://www.hud.gov.
Content Archived: January 20, 2009