FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2001
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CHARGES THE CITY OF POOLER, GEORGIA
WITH RACIAL DISCRIMINATION FOR BLOCKING DEVELOPMENT
OF LOW INCOME HOUSING FOR SENIOR CITIZENS
WASHINGTON, DC - - The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the City of Pooler, Georgia, a suburb of Savannah, Georgia, alleging that the city violated the federal Fair Housing Act when it rejected a private developer's proposal to construct affordable housing for low-income senior citizens for racially motivated reasons.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Savannah, Georgia, alleges that the predominantly white City of Pooler violated the federal Fair Housing Act by opposing a developer's application last year to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (GDCA ) for federal tax credits to construct a 68-unit apartment complex for low-income seniors. The suit alleges that the city opposed the proposed development because it feared that African American tenants would move into the new apartments.
"While cities have the right to control local zoning and residential development, they must fairly exercise their discretion in a manner that is free of racial bias," said Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
The federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program was established by Congress in 1987. Since the program's inception, more than one million affordable rental units have been constructed throughout the United States. The LIHTC program is implemented by each of the fifty states through their state housing finance agencies, which gives tax credits to private developers as an incentive to build low-income housing. The LIHTC program is the federal government's largest program for making new, privately-owned housing available to families with incomes less than 60% of the national median income.
The Justice Department alleges in its lawsuit that the Pooler City Council initially voted against a zoning variance proposed by the developer to construct Harbor Pointe Apartments. Moreover, after the developer optioned additional land and reconfigured his proposal to comply with the city's zoning requirements, the city sent a letter of opposition to the Georgia DCA, according to the lawsuit. The suit also alleges that the developer was denied tax credits because of the city's opposition, and alleges that the city's opposition to the development of the housing was racially motivated.
The Justice Department's suit seeks an order requiring the city to cease discriminating, to take steps to ensure the construction of affordable senior housing in Pooler, to pay damages to persons injured by the city's practices, and to pay a civil penalty.
Individuals who believe that they have been victims of an illegal housing practice may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] or file a lawsuit in federal or state court. Individuals must file their complaint with HUD within one year of a housing discrimination incident or file a lawsuit in federal or state court within two years of an incident. For more information about housing discrimination laws call 202-514-4713 or look at the Department of Justice Internet website http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing.