Louisiana Public Housing Authority Settles Race Discrimination Case

The Housing Authority of the city of Ruston, La., recently agreed to pay $175,000 and adopt comprehensive new policies to settle a race discrimination lawsuit filed by the Justice Department.

The complaint alleged that the housing authority had long segregated the 300 apartments in its five public housing developments by assigning vacancies to applicants based on their race, rather than on their place on the waiting list. Specifically, the department claimed that the housing authority disproportionately assigned white applicants to its two developments that were located in two predominantly white neighborhoods. At the same time, the department alleged, the housing authority primarily assigned African-American applicants to the complexes located in three predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

When it originally began developing housing in the 1950s and early 1960s, the housing authority explicitly reserved two of the communities for “white” persons, while reserving two others for what it termed “colored” persons, according to the Justice Department. Although the housing authority no longer enforced those provisions, it allegedly continued to segregate its complexes in practice. According to the Justice Department, a former project manager admitted skipping over earlier-applying African-American applicants to fill vacancies at a predominantly white community with later applying white applicants. And, on multiple occasions, she allegedly didn’t offer eligible white applicants available apartments in other, nearly all-black, communities, but instead offered those units to later-applying African-American applicants.  

Under the settlement, the housing authority agreed to implement nondiscriminatory policies and procedures to ensure that housing units are made available for rent based on an applicant’s position on its waiting list, regardless of race. In addition, the housing authority will pay $175,000 to compensate 19 individuals allegedly passed over for available housing units because of their race; they may also request a transfer to another complex on a priority basis.

“People who seek public housing, like all other home seekers, have the right to access housing free from racial discrimination," Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “It is particularly distressing that, almost 50 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, this public housing authority was still filling vacancies based on the color of an applicant’s skin, rather than based on when he or she had applied. We are pleased that the Ruston Housing Authority has agreed to dismantle this segregated system and compensate its victims.”  

Source: Justice Department