Los Angeles County agreed to pay $2 million in damages to residents who experienced housing discrimination. The U.S. Justice Department ruled that L.A. County housing officials collaborated with sheriffs to implement practices to deter minority residents (particularly African Americans) in the Antelope Valley cities of Lancaster and Palmdale.
This settlement arrives after an investigation launched by the Justice Department in 2011 after complaints that residents of these cities were being discriminated against and pressured to leave their residences. These discriminatory practices primarily affected African Americans residing in or seeking residence in low income housing zones. The complaint alleges that black residents who had Section 8 vouchers faced “more intrusive and intimidating compliance checks” than white voucher holders. Furthermore, black residents were more likely to have their vouchers capriciously taken away, which forced the residents to seek other housing opportunities.
Earlier this year, the Sheriff’s Department agreed to pay $700,000 as well as implement anti-discriminatory practices. This new settlement being paid out by the County Housing Authority will give those who faced discrimination (whose numbers could be in the hundreds) will have the opportunity to claim damages. A limited number (up to 5 households) will be able to regain their Section 8 vouchers. More victims will be able to have the termination of their vouchers wiped from their records. This process could take up to a year or more.
Authorities in Antelope Valley deny any discriminatory practices, and the County Supervisor for the region, Michael D. Antonovich, cast the sole “no” vote in the settlement vote. In addition to implementing anti-discrimination policies, the county will have to provide anti-discrimination training for housing employees.