Legal Aid Services confirms applicant and daughter were denied housing because they are Black.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has settled its racial discrimination case against the Housing Authority of the Town of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, and two of its former employees. Under the terms of their settlement, the Housing Authority and David Haynes and Myra Hess will pay $75,000 and must take other actions to resolve violations of the Fair Housing Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq., “prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing, such as landlords and real estate companies as well as other entities, such as municipalities, banks or other lending institutions and homeowners’ insurance companies whose discriminatory practices make housing unavailable to persons because of race or color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability.” Title VI upholds the same terms for entities receiving federal funding.
The consent decree, approved by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, specifies that $65,000 will go directly to the applicant and her child, and $10,000 will be reserved for the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma Inc. The organization was responsible for performing fair housing testing that uncovered the Housing Authority’s discrimination. The employees and board members must also participate in mandatory Fair Housing Act and Title VI training, devise nondiscriminatory procedures and submit to other requirements as outlined.
The United States’ lawsuit, originally filed in December 2020, alleged the Housing Authority employees told a Legal Aid staff member contacting them on behalf of the applicant that units were available. However, when the Housing Authority learned she and her daughter were Black, it denied their application. At that point, it told the applicant that no apartments were available. Legal Aid carried out its testing and a white tester was told multiple apartments were available to her and her daughter. It subsequently showed her three vacant apartments. The very next day, the Housing Authority told a Black tester no apartments were available for her and her granddaughter and did not show her an apartment.
“Housing authorities are entrusted with taxpayer dollars to serve some of the most vulnerable members of our communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “It is abhorrent that a housing authority would deny a home to any applicant on the basis of race. The Justice Department is committed to vigorous enforcement of federal law to ensure that no one is unlawfully denied housing because of race or for any other prohibited reason.”
“The time for racial discrimination in housing should be far behind us,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Demetria McCain of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD is pleased the Department of Justice and HUD’s Fair Housing Initiative partner, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, took appropriate action to put a halt to the housing authority’s unlawful behavior.”