|HUD No. 16-167
November 4, 2016
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
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today an agreement between the East Chicago Housing Authority and a fair housing organization, resolving multiple complaints of housing discrimination.
The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, on behalf of residents, alleged the East Chicago Housing Authority violated the Fair Housing Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act with respect to the relocation of residents at West Calumet Housing Complex due to soil surrounding the complex being contaminated with lead and arsenic. The 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.
"Residents in the West Calumet housing complex are dealing with many decisions on the health and future well-being of their families, and this agreement will help ensure they have the necessary time and resources to make the best decision possible under these unprecedented circumstances," said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "We commend the collaboration between the housing authority and local fair housing leaders to reach this fair housing agreement in a timely manner."
Specifically, the Shriver Center claimed the housing authority made housing unavailable on the basis of race, familial status, and/or disability and discriminated against residents in the terms, conditions, privileges, or services and facilities. The Shriver Center claimed that when the housing authority made the decision to vacate and demolish the West Calumet Housing Complex after it determined that the lead and arsenic contaminated soil surrounding the complex posed imminent danger to its residents, it did not provide the time or resources for households to make decisions in the best interest of their health and safety. The Shriver Center also alleged that the East Chicago Housing Authority failed to offer higher rent subsidies if needed and other reasonable accommodations to households that included members with disabilities, in accordance with Section 504.
Under the terms of the agreement, the East Chicago Housing Authority will ensure it offers relocation benefits to all eligible residents of the West Calumet Public Housing Complex, including residents who moved out prior to the lead disclosure if they moved out due to health concerns or if they have children under the age of 6. These relocation benefits include a Housing Choice Voucher for residents and their families. In addition to relocation benefits and housing vouchers, the housing authority will waive the rent owed by residents residing at the West Calumet Housing Complex from July 22, 2016 through March 31, 2017 or the end of their tenancy. The housing authority will also reimburse any rent paid by tenants for November 2016.
The Voluntary Compliance Agreement also includes extended time for families to search for new housing that accepts their housing choice vouchers. If families have not located housing by March 31, 2017, they may transfer out of West Calumet housing complex on an emergency basis to other public housing units while they continue their search. Under the agreement, families will have through approximately July 1, 2017 to take their housing vouchers to a new location.
Other terms of the agreement include the full return of most security deposits; mobility and relocation counseling for households; enhanced mobility and relocation counseling for households with a member who has a disability and/or elevated blood lead levels; expedited assessments of proposed new units for households with residents with elevated blood lead levels, or those who currently have an impairment associated with lead poisoning; the creation of a housing mobility program to provide households with information about opportunity areas; higher rent subsidies to households as a need-based reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities and families with children with elevated blood lead levels; and on-site risk assessments to determine and report the existence, nature, severity, and location of lead-based paint hazards in any potential new units. Read the agreement for the complete list of terms.
HUD has also entered into a Technical Assistance Contract with Inland Fair Housing and Mediation Board to provide technical assistance to East Chicago Housing Authority to provide mobility counseling for the residents.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate in the rental or sale of housing or to impose different terms and conditions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance and by state and local government entities.
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