(STL.News) The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit alleging that the Housing Authority of Ashland, Alabama, which manages seven federally funded low-income housing complexes, violated the Fair Housing Act by intentionally discriminating on the basis of race or color against applicants for housing.
The department’s complaint alleges that the Housing Authority denied African-American applicants the opportunity to live in overwhelmingly White housing complexes, while steering White applicants away from properties whose residents were predominantly African-American.
The lawsuit also names as defendants Southern Development Company of Ashland Ltd., Southern Development Company of Ashland #2 Ltd., and Southern Development Company LLC, which are the private owners and managing agent of one of those housing complexes.
“On April 11, 1968, one week after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the United States enacted the Fair Housing Act to outlaw race, color, and other forms of discrimination in housing. Denying people housing opportunities because of their race or color is a shameful and blatant violation of the Fair Housing Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “The United States has made great strides toward Dr. King’s dream of a nation where we will be judged by content of our character and not by the color of our skin. The dream remains at least partially unfulfilled because we have not completely overcome the scourge of racial bias in housing. Discrimination by those who receive federal taxpayer dollars to provide housing to lower-income applicants is particularly odious because it comes with the support and authority of government. The U.S. Department of Justice will not stand for this kind of unlawful and intolerable discrimination. The Justice Department will continue to fight to protect the rights of all Americans to rent and own their homes without regard to their race or color.”
“Individuals and families should not have their rights affected by their race or national origin,” said U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona for the Northern District of Alabama. “Our office is committed to defending the civil rights of everyone.”
Today’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, alleges that since at least 2012, the defendants have maintained segregated housing properties by denying African-American housing applicants the opportunity to live at three overwhelmingly White housing complexes, known as Ashland Heights, Clay Circle and East Side, and denying White applicants the opportunity to live at West Side and Pine View, two properties whose residents are predominantly African-American. All of these complexes are located in Ashland, Alabama.
The lawsuit seeks damages to compensate victims, civil penalties to the government to vindicate the public interest, and a court order barring future discrimination and requiring action to correct the effects of the defendants’ discrimination.