WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced a settlement that, pending court approval, will require the Housing Authority for the City of Winder, Ga., (WHA), to pay up to $490,000 to resolve allegations that it engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminating against African-American tenants and housing applicants.
The WHA is a public housing authority that provides housing for persons of low income in Barrow County, Ga. Currently, the WHA owns and maintains nine public housing complexes in the city of Winder, and the neighboring towns of Statham and Braselton, Ga.
The complaint, which was filed today in the U.S. District Court in Gainesville, Ga., in conjunction with the consent decree, alleges that the WHA maintained racially segregated housing by assigning applicants to vacant units based on race, rather than in order of their placement on WHA’s waiting list. The complaint also alleges that the WHA subjected African-American tenants to inferior terms and conditions of rental.
"Every person, including individuals who seek public assistance, has a right to be free from racial discrimination in housing," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. "The Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of the Fair Housing Act."
Upon court approval, the consent decree will require the WHA to implement nondiscriminatory policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act. The WHA will also provide training on the nondiscriminatory policies and procedures and the Fair Housing Act to its employees responsible for making housing decisions. In addition, WHA will ensure that housing units are made available for rent on an equal basis with the same terms and conditions for all persons, regardless of race.
In addition, the WHA will establish a $450,000 fund to compensate individuals who suffered damages as a result of the WHA’s conduct and will pay a $40,000 civil penalty to the United States.
Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at email@example.com, or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Since Jan. 1, 2001, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has filed 267 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 77 of which have alleged discrimination based on race. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt.