An Oklahoma Housing authority that denied a Black mother and her daughter housing in 2015 finally settled with the Department of Justice. The Oklahoman reported a civil rights complaint was brought against the Lone Wolf Housing Authority, the former executive director and a former program assistant in December 2020.
Announced last Monday, the settlement awarded the woman and her daughter $65,000. The local legal aid also received $10,000. The housing authority was also required to enter a consent decree for staff and board members to have nondiscrimination training, focusing on the Fair Housing Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“Housing authorities are entrusted with tax-payer 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 in a statement. “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.”
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma confirmed the discrimination by having two housing testers, one white and one Black, attempt to apply for housing. The white tester was told there were multiple apartments available. A day later, the Black tester was told there was no availability.
The housing authority received funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and manages 25 units. While the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability, it can take years for those overlooked to receive relief. Denying people in need of help can have dire long-term consequences for the individual and their family.
As previously reported by NewsOne, the Justice Department renewed efforts to combat housing and lending discrimination. In October 2021, the department announced an enforcement action against a lender in lending discrimination and defacto redlining.
“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.”