Bossier City, Louisiana, Housing Authority Agrees to Pay $120,000 and Implement Reforms to Settle Justice Department Lawsuit
The Justice Department announced today that the Bossier City, Louisiana, Housing Authority (BCHA) has agreed to pay $120,000 and adopt new policies and practices to settle a lawsuit alleging that it discriminated on the basis of race and disability, in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The settlement must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.
The complaint alleges that from 2007 to 2014, BCHA assigned elderly residents to housing on the basis of race, rather than by their place on the waiting list, and restricted residents with disabilities primarily to one of BCHA’s seven apartment complexes. Specifically, the Justice Department alleges that BCHA assigned white elderly residents to Patricia Plaza I or Patricia Plaza II, the two complexes that it had reserved for elderly persons. By contrast, the complaint alleges that BCHA assigned African-American elderly residents to one of its other five complexes, all of which were at least 90 percent African-American. The complaint further alleges that BCHA primarily assigned residents with disabilities to Patricia Plaza II and did not consider such residents for vacancies at BCHA’s six other properties.
“Denying housing or dictating where someone can live based on their race or disability perpetuates residential segregation and violates federal law,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This settlement ensures equal access to federally-subsidized housing in Bossier City, and the department will continue to confront discriminatory policies or practices in the housing market throughout the country.”
“All of the residents of our district deserve to live in housing managed with policies that are free of discrimination,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley of the Western District of Louisiana. “In some cases, these federally-subsidized housing units are the last resort for those seeking a place to live. Their situations should not be further complicated or burdened by illegal actions taken by those tasked with meeting their needs.”
If approved by the district court, the settlement will require BCHA to implement non-discriminatory policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act and to ensure that BCHA housing units are made available for rent based on an applicant’s position on its waiting list, irrespective of race or disability. In addition, BCHA employees who are responsible for making housing decisions will receive training on the new non-discriminatory policies and procedures, the consent decree and the Fair Housing Act.
In addition, BCHA will pay $120,000 to compensate elderly persons or persons with disabilities who were passed over on the waiting list or otherwise denied the right to move into the apartment of their choice because of race or disability. Such persons who are current tenants will also be allowed to request a transfer on a priority basis. The settlement establishes a process for identifying people who are entitled to share in the settlement fund. Persons who believe they were subjected to unlawful discrimination at one of BCHA properties and may be entitled to receive compensation should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743, Mailbox 9993, or email the department at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt.