The Justice Department’s civil rights division announced in mid-December it had filed a lawsuit against the Housing Authority of the Town of Lone Wolf in Oklahoma and two of its former employees, alleging the authority shared with a white applicant they had units available but indicated in speaking with black applicant all were already occupied.
To follow up with the allegations, officials with Legal Aid helping the African American woman secure housing conducted a live test and confirmed that housing authority officials told a white woman there were multiple apartments available, letting her preview three that were vacant. However, the following day, the same officials told the Black woman there was nothing available.
The Department of Justice’s complaint, United States v. Lone Wolf Housing Authority (W.D. Okla.), states, “The defendants discriminated on the basis of race in violation of the Fair Housing Act and Title VI when they rejected the housing application of complainant and her minor child on the pretext of lack of available housing and further misrepresented housing availability to a Black tester after defendants had shown numerous available units to the companion tester.”
Additional defendants named in the case include former Housing Authority employees David M. Haynes and Myrna Hess. The complaint states, “At all relevant times, Mr. Haynes participated in the day-to-day operations of the Housing Authority, including but not limited to, performing maintenance, managing of the property, monitoring and managing housing availability, engaging with prospective residents seeking housing, and approving and denying rental applications. At all relevant times, Ms. Hess participated in the day-to-day operations of the Housing Authority, including but not limited to, monitoring and managing housing availability, engaging with prospective residents seeking housing, processing lease applications, maintaining records, and handling additional management responsibilities at times when Mr. Haynes was absent from the Housing Authority’s rental office.”
Anna María Farías, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity said, “Families have a tough enough time finding decent affordable housing without having their options limited because of their race. HUD applauds today’s action and will continue working with the Justice Department to take appropriate action when the nation’s fair housing laws are violated.”
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division added, “Denying people housing opportunities because of their race or color is an egregious violation of the Fair Housing Act. Discrimination by those who receive federal taxpayer dollars to provide housing to lower-income applicants is particularly odious. The Justice Department will not tolerate illegal housing discrimination in any form, and we will continue to fight to protect the rights of all Americans to rent and own their homes without regard to their race or color.”
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, family status, national origin or disability. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specific prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs receiving federal funds.
U.S. Census Bureau records show less than 1% of the town’s roughly 400 residents are Black. The federal lawsuit seeks monetary damages for the mother and a court order prohibiting further discrimination.