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HUD halts probe into NAACP's Lancaster housing-bias complaint

June 19, 2012 |  9:27 am

A housing discrimination complaint filed against the city of Lancaster by the NAACP  has been withdrawn, allowing the federal housing authority to end its investigation into housing practices of the High Desert municipality. But the city still faces litigation over the issue.

In a letter dated June 14, Charles E. Hauptman, regional director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, told Lancaster officials that the NAACP formally withdrew the complaint and “in accordance with the complaint’s request, HUD has terminated its investigation.”

Hauptman said HUD’s closure of its probe was “not a determination of the merits of the allegations contained in the complaint.”

The complaint described a pattern of harassment by Lancaster leaders against mainly black and Latino residents.

In written remarks, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said the withdrawal  of the complaint “allows us to save valuable taxpayer dollars, which are vital to our local economy, now more than ever.”

“Such divisive, non-productive issues do not stand to benefit anyone in this community,” Parris said.  “We are glad to finally put this behind us and continue pushing forward with matters which build up our city and its citizens, as opposed to breaking us down.”

But attorneys for the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People said the issue of Lancaster’s alleged discriminatory housing practices is far from settled. The civil rights group was withdrawing the HUD complaint in order “to focus on a speedy resolution to our litigation against the city,” said Gary Blasi, who was co-counsel to the NAACP in the complaint.

The lawsuit, which initially also named neighboring Palmdale, claims that officials used housing investigators -- who are partially funded by Los Angeles County -- and L.A. County sheriff's deputies in a campaign to drive primarily minority residents from government-subsidized housing.

“We want to again extend a hand to Lancaster leaders to renounce the harassment of black and Latino families and move ahead as one community,” said Blasi, who is also a UCLA law professor.

In February, Palmdale agreed to settle the civil-rights lawsuit against it, but admitted no wrong-doing. 

Lancaster, meanwhile, filed a complaint against Los Angeles County and its housing authority, alleging that the agency unlawfully favors African Americans in granting vouchers under Section 8 of the Federal Housing Act.

City officials say that at least 70% of Lancaster's housing subsidy recipients are African American, compared with around 14% who are Latino. Blacks account for a little more than 20% of Lancaster's 157,000 residents, while Latinos make up about 38%.

“We urge Lancaster to also withdraw its own complaint to HUD,” Blasi said. “We hope Lancaster can join Palmdale and the County of Los Angeles in making sure all its residents feel safe in their homes and their community."

ALSO:

Editorial: Lancaster's Section 8 mistake

For Antelope Valley African Americans, a lower life expectancy

L.A. County gives some homeless convicts priority in housing

-- Ann M. Simmons in Santa Clarita

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