PALMDALE – Nearly 100 residents packed the Larry Chimbole Cultural Center Thursday for an update on the lawsuit against the Cities of Lancaster and Palmdale.
“Both the Lancaster and the Palmdale City Councils have been explicit about saying that those two cities want to discourage people in the Section 8 voucher program from residency in these two communities,” said Catherine Lhamon, Director of Impact Litigation at Public Counsel. “That’s unlawful, that needs to end, and the goal of the lawsuit is to make it stop.”
Lhamon said the Cities of Palmdale and Lancaster were taking aggressive negative action against participants in the Section 8 program that is “out of wack” with the rest of the County’s practices for enforcement. Lhamon read off compelling statistics to support this claim, saying:
- Families are 2 ½ times more likely to be investigated if they live in Lancaster and 3.2 times more likely to be investigated if they live in Palmdale, than if they live any where else in the County.
- Families are 4.2 times more likely to be referred for termination in Lancaster and 5.6 times more likely to be referred for termination if they live in Palmdale than the rest of the County.
- Countywide, the termination rate for the program is 1 in 114 families, but in Palmdale, that rate is 1 in 12 and in Lancaster, that rate is 1 in 21.
- In Palmdale and in Lancaster, sheriffs accompanied housing investigators 70% of the time, while in the rest of the county, they accompanied housing investigators 8% of the time.
“The experience of having somebody come and check your home to find out if you’re complying with the rules is dramatically different if you live in the Antelope Valley than if you lived anywhere else in the County,” Lhamon said. “It’s unsafe, it’s scary, it’s intimidating and it makes people feel unwelcome. That’s also unlawful”.
Lhamon said the lawsuit was filed in June 2011 after months and years of trying to negotiate with the Cities.
“Unfortunately neither Lancaster nor Palmdale was willing to engage in that kind of negotiation with us… so we had to file a lawsuit against those two cities.” She said.
By contrast, she says the County of Los Angeles engaged in a 90-day moratorium to hold funding for additional investigators, to allow for some time to resolve the issues.
The County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to decide whether to continue the moratorium on additional investigative activity on September 20th at a regularly scheduled meeting. The meeting will also involve an open session discussion about the merits and the wisdom of increasing the moratorium.
Lhamon said should the Board of Supervisors decide to lift the moratorium, the County could find itself in the same position as Lancaster and Palmdale.
“If the Board of Supervisors is unable to continue negotiating with us, an option for us is to add the County to the lawsuit and to proceed with the litigation with three defendants — the county and the two cities,” Lhamon said.