Lancaster accuses L.A. County of housing discrimination
The city of Lancaster filed a complaint Wednesday against Los Angeles County and its housing authority, charging race-based housing discrimination.
The complaint alleges that the agency unlawfully favors African Americans in granting vouchers under Section 8 of the Federal Housing Act.
Lancaster officials allege that the housing authority discriminates against other eligible groups and that its actions constitute “unlawful and discriminatory racial steering practices that essentially coerce blacks to move to Lancaster, leaving the city with a disproportionate share of blacks on federal housing assistance.”
Sean Rogan, executive director of the county Community Development Commission/Housing Authority, said his agency was aware of the complaint but hadn’t seen it.
"Our mission is to provide affordable, decent, and safe housing to Los Angeles County residents, and we do so in a fair and equitable manner in accordance with [federal housing] regulations and do not discriminate," he said in an email.
Lancaster officials also contend that although the city is home to fewer than 2% of the county’s population, it has one of the largest per capita Section 8 populations in the agency's jurisdiction.
About 15% of the 23,000 Section 8 vouchers administered by the county are being used in Lancaster, according to the complaint. City officials say that at least 70% of Lancaster’s housing subsidy recipients are African American, compared to about 14% who are Latino. Blacks account for a little more than 20% of Lancaster’s 157,000 residents, while Latinos make up about 38%.
Rogan disputed those figures, however, saying that 2,193 holders of Section 8 vouchers live in Lancaster, out of 21,969 countywide, making Lancaster’s share about 10%. Those voucher holders, he said, “have come from various housing authorities over several years,” not just the county’s. He was unable to provide the number of vouchers his agency had granted to tenants now living in Lancaster.
Said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris: “They’ve been promoting the Antelope Valley to poor, sick people. What they’ve been telling them is that you get more bang for your buck in Lancaster and Palmdale. What they don’t tell [them] is that the health facilities aren’t there, the support facilities aren’t there.”
Rogan said the voucher program "is based on choice, and information is provided to applicants that they can choose where to live."
-- Ann M. Simmons