FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2000
TDD (202) 514-1888
CITY OF JACKSONVILLE AND ITS HOUSING AUTHORITY AGREE TO BUILD
NEW PUBLIC HOUSING UNITS TO COMPLY WITH FAIR HOUSING ACT
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The City of Jacksonville, Florida, and the Jacksonville Housing Authority will create 225 new public housing units in designated areas in Duval County where there is currently little or no public housing, in an agreement finalized today with the Justice Department. The agreement, filed today in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, is designed to remedy what the Justice Department describes as a long standing pattern and practice by the City and the Jacksonville Housing Authority of refusing to site public housing anywhere except predominantly black neighborhoods in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. Approximately 90% of the Housing Authority's tenants are African-American. "When making decisions about the location of public housing, local officials have a legal responsibility not to create or perpetuate racially segregated housing patterns," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee. "This agreement will remedy this inequality and will expand housing opportunities for low-income minority families throughout the Jacksonville area." In the lawsuit filed with the proposed settlement today, the Justice Department alleges that the City and Housing Authority discriminated on the basis of race when they failed to implement a plan to site public housing in non-minority areas when they were building replacement units after the demolition of Blodgett Homes. The government alleged that the City and Housing Authority only constructed replacement housing in predominantly black neighborhoods and abandoned their plans for construction in white areas in response to opposition from white neighbors. The Justice Department also alleges in its lawsuit that the City of Jacksonville violated the Fair Housing Act when it passed a 1994 amendment to its zoning code which required a special permit for public housing that was not required for other kinds of housing. The City Council used the amendment, which was repealed last year, to veto the Housing Authority's decisions regarding the location of public housing and to prevent the construction of public housing units in white neighborhoods. The case stemmed from complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development which were referred to the Justice Department in 1998. The settlement, which was approved unanimously by the Jacksonville City Council, must still be approved by the court before going into effect. The Justice Department recognizes the efforts of the City and Housing Authority officials in responding promptly to the United States concerns to arrive at today's settlement. The Jacksonville Housing Authority has made positive strides in recent years to improve the physical condition of many public housing units. Under the agreement, which will remain in effect for seven years, the City and the Jacksonville Housing Authority will:
- create 225 new public housing units in designated areas of Duval County where public housing has not previously been built;
- develop and operate a Section 8 mobility counseling program for Northwest Jacksonville families to provide counseling and moving expenses to those who currently receive Section 8 rent vouchers and are interested in renting in other areas of Duval County;
- implement a fair housing training program for city and housing authority officials and employees; and
- award a total of $380,750.00 in damages to the individuals who filed the initial complaints with HUD.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and family status. This prohibition includes discriminatory land use and zoning practices by local governments and housing authorities.