HUD Archives: News Releases


HUD No. 00-277
Further Information: For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685 Tuesday
Or contact your local HUD office October 3, 2000

FY 2000 Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) Awards
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CUOMO ACTS TO DEFEND CIVIL RIGHTS

WASHINGTON -- Reiterating a commitment to a no-compromise policy against civil rights violations and housing discrimination, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today announced that he has sent a 10-person team from Washington to begin the takeover of the Beaumont Housing Authority in Beaumont, Texas.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas issued an order permitting the takeover on September 28, 2000.

The takeover is a result of chronic violations of civil rights laws dating back several decades. The latest actions which triggered the takeover were uncovered by HUD in January of 2000 during a review of actions taken by the Beaumont Housing Authority to address ongoing problems. Those problems included the improper sales of public housing properties; failure to use public housing funds to benefit low-income families; failure to conduct proper annual audits; and failure to keep records required to assess compliance with civil rights laws.

This is the latest effort in HUDís nationwide crackdown against civil rights violations and housing discrimination ordered by President Clinton as part of the One America Initiative.

"In the past three years, HUD has doubled the number of cases we have taken to ensure that civil rights violations and housing discrimination are stamped out in every corner of this nation," said Cuomo, "The civil rights guaranteed by our Constitution, federal laws and regulations are non-negotiable. Our actions in Beaumont are aimed at ensuring equal opportunity for the residents of Beaumont Ė but they also send a clear message to every housing authority in the nation Ė that HUD has zero tolerance for these types of abuses."

Cuomo made the announcement during a telephone news conference where he was joined by civil rights activist and the Executive Director for the Texas Human Rights Commission, William Hale.

The special team from Washington will be setting up meetings and working with residents and the Housing Authority to accomplish a smooth transition.

The takeover became necessary after repeated attempts to reach agreement with Beaumont Housing Authorityís management were unsuccessful. As a result of the judgeís order, HUD has entered into a contract with the neighboring Port Arthur Housing Authority to manage the Beaumont Housing Authority.

Beaumont Housing Authority was lagging far behind for many years in developing desegregated housing opportunities Ė such as the use of Section 8 vouchers to move residents away from areas of racial concentration, and developing new housing units in non-minority areas.

"Civil rights deferred are civil rights abridged," said Cuomo.

Despite its failures to provide these opportunities, the Beaumont Housing Authority financed a separate moderate to high-income development called Lexington on the Lake at the same time it reduced its housing assistance to lower-income families by improperly selling public housing to investors, real estate agents and other ineligible buyers.

A review by the East Texas Fair Housing Services Center, a non-profit group established to help families find desegregated housing, concluded that the Beaumont Housing Authority impeded the creation of desegregated housing opportunities throughout the area, known as the Golden Triangle.

Texas Human Rights Commission Executive Director William Hale echoed those concerns. "The Commission, whose governing body is composed of six Commissioners appointed by Governor Bush, is committed to fair and effective enforcement of the Texas Fair Housing Law which is substantially equivalent to the Federal Fair Housing Law. Based on HUDís investigation, the Beaumont Housing Authority has failed to comply with an order issued by a U.S. District Court. The Commission fully supports HUDís actions to bring the Beaumont Housing Authority into compliance as it did with the Orange County Housing Authority in Vidor, Texas, during 1992 and 1993."

The Beaumont Housing Authority also repeatedly failed to turn in documentation that would allow HUD to determine if it was complying with civil rights laws.

In 1992, HUD authorized $10.6 million to the Beaumont Housing Authority to develop 150 public housing units that subsequently were later required to provide desegregated housing opportunities. To date, only 100 units have been identified, and of those, many have not been made available to minority tenants.

Under the new arrangements being put in place as a result of HUDís takeover actions, the new administrators of the Beaumont Housing Authority will be required to develop new housing units in non-minority areas.

The Port Arthur management will also be directed to increase the availability of housing open to minority residents by completing work on scattered-site housing in non-minority areas so families can move in.

The takeover will also mean increased accountability and record-keeping, which has been a failure in the past.

Todayís action is the eighth takeover carried out by HUD, and is the latest in scores of fair housing and civil rights actions that HUD has taken across the country. HUD previously took over housing authorities in San Francisco, CA; Wellston, MO; Lafayette, LA; New Orleans ,LA; Chicago, IL; Camden, N.J.; and Orange County,TX.

Some 3,700 cases involving the enforcement of fair housing laws have been filed since the beginning of the administration.

Examples of recent actions brought by HUD and its fair housing partners concerning civil rights laws include:

  • July 2000 - More than $1 million in damages awarded to Pennsylvania fair housing advocate Bonnie Jouhari and her teenage daughter who received death threats from a hate-group leader via the Internet. Jouhari was a fair housing specialist in Reading, PA,who was harassed for her advocacy of fair housing issues and because her daughter was biracial. In May 2000, HUD won another victory for Jouhari from Roy Frankhauser, a self-described chaplain of the Ku Klux Klan, who agreed to pay damages and penalties and apologize for his threatening and harassing behavior in 1998. He also agreed to display a HUD fair housing poster outside his house, broadcast HUD fair housing public service announcements as part of his "White Forum" public access television show, and attend HUD approved sensitivity training.
  • July 2000 - A California landlord accused of offering homeless women reduced rent in return for sexual favors agrees to pay $195,000 to settle a housing discrimination lawsuit. Landlord Kamal Lal was charged with seeking out women at the Modesto Inn homeless shelter and offering them reduced rent or other benefits in return for sexual favors. Lal was also barred from establishing contact with his former, current and future tenants, was required to hire a professional management company to run his rental properties, and was required to attend fair housing training.
  • May 2000 - $21 million settlement in favor of 24 Hispanic farm workers in Riverside, Calif., who were targeted by selective and discriminatory enforcement of health and safety regulations. The families had complained that Riverside County was targeting Hispanic-owned and occupied mobile home parks for selective and discriminatory enforcement of its codes. The families also alleged that the county improperly tried to evict some of them from their homes in three mobile home parks. The settlement provided $747,000 to the families and $16.1 million in loans and grants to Riverside for the creation of greater housing opportunities for 2,000 poor farm workers in Southern California.

Fair Housing Grants Announced

Meanwhile, Cuomo also today announced the national release of $17 million in grants to groups in 57 cities to help fight against housing discrimination.

"Housing discrimination is illegal and intolerable, and HUD is working to end it across the nation" Cuomo said. "We want everyone to understand that HUD will help them uphold their legal right to live in any home and in any neighborhood they can afford."

The grants, which are given to public and private fair housing groups as well as to state and local agencies, will be used to educate the public and housing industry about discrimination laws, to promote fair housing, and to investigate allegations of housing discrimination.

Cuomo noted the competition for todayís grants was tough, with 197 applications seeking more than $50 million in assistance.

HUD has in recent years increased its enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. Cuomo noted, however, that HUD efforts to combat housing discrimination will stagnate if Congress fails to provide the increased funding requested by President Clinton. The President has asked Congress for $50 million for HUDís anti-discrimination office, a 14 percent increase above this yearís $44 million. Neither the House of Representative nor Senate version of the HUD 2001 budget includes any new funding for fair housing programs. The legislation awaits final Congressional approval.

Below is a breakdown of Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) grants awarded by state:
Alabama - $899,946 Montana - $300,000
California - $1,255,412 Nebraska - $451,009
Delaware - $85,097 Nevada - $300,000
Florida - $1,265,072 New Jersey - $194,861
Hawaii - $399,252 New York - $550,000
Idaho -298,970 North Carolina - $533,555
Illinois - $718,966 North Dakota - $299,999
Indiana - $448,491 Ohio - $798,907
Kansas - $81,563 Oregon - $589,977
Kentucky - $899,999 Pennsylvania - $150,000
Louisiana - $300,000 Rhode Island - $229,273
Maryland - $212,114 Tennessee - $299,921
Massachusetts - $649,999 Texas - $1,059,514
Michigan - $127,500 Vermont - $449,703
Minnesota - $496,282 Virginia - $138,409
Mississippi - $298,100 Washington State - $800,000
Missouri - $418,106 Wisconsin - see Hawaii details
Nationwide grant - $1,000,000

Additionally, a total pool of $20 million for the Fair Housing Assistance Program has been awarded. This money is used by state and local governments in partnership with HUD to fight housing discrimination.

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, insuring and advertising of most of the nationís housing.

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 has committed over $37 million to 67 fair housing centers around the country to assist in fighting housing discrimination.

People who believe they've been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777.

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Content Archived: December 13, 2009