Settlement reached in Section 8 discrimination allegations

LOS ANGELES – Late Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors reached a settlement related to the allegations that Section 8 recipients face harassment in Lancaster and Palmdale. The settlement comes in response to a federal lawsuit filed June 7, 2011, which alleges Black and Latino families using Section 8 were victims of constant, unbearable harassment at the hands of housing authority investigators, sheriff’s deputies and local politicians. Though the County was not a party in the lawsuit, the settlement Tuesday was reportedly an effort by the County to resolve some of the plaintiff’s concerns in the lawsuit. Specific details of the settlement were not immediately available late Tuesday. The AV Times will have more on this story Wednesday.

The following is a press release from the Public Counsel and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, the firms representing the plaintiffs in the racial discrimination lawsuit.

Los Angeles County Agrees to Take Major Step to Combat Section 8 Discrimination in the Antelope Valley

Settlement will restrict Lancaster and Palmdale’s ability to use County programs as a tool for harassment of Black and Latino families in the federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program

LOS ANGELES – For years, Antelope Valley families who are part of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program faced harassment in the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale. Now Los Angeles County has sent a powerful message to these and other cities: County programs and departments will no longer be used as tools for intimidation and discrimination.

County Supervisors approved an agreement late Tuesday with attorneys representing Antelope Valley residents and the NAACP that takes away many of the tools that have been used to inspire fear in the more than 11,000 Section 8 participants in the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale who moved to the area seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

The County of Los Angeles agrees to take the following steps to ensure people needing rental assistance are no longer subjected to discrimination.

  • Stop the use of taxpayer funds for harassment of Antelope Valley residents in the Section 8 program.
  • Stop the targeting of African American and Latino families and landlords who rent to them.
  • Prevent unwarranted involvement of LA County Sheriff’s personnel in Housing Authority compliance checks anywhere in Los Angeles County.
  • Create new policies that respect families’ fair housing rights.
  • Promote education about Section 8 participants’ rights under federal law.

A federal court must approve the agreement, which would go into effect immediately for a term of at least three years. The agreement does not affect the racial discrimination lawsuit (The Community Action League vs. Lancaster et al.) that Antelope Valley residents and community groups filed in June 2011 against the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale over their violations of federal fair housing laws.

“The agreement ends a long nightmare when families who participated in the Section 8 program lived in fear of a knock at the door, and when neighbors saw a dozen sheriff’s deputies next door and started to mistrust families whose children had once played with theirs,” said Catherine Lhamon, director of impact litigation at Public Counsel. “The settlement represents the best of what government can and should do. This is a new day for families in the Antelope Valley and across Los Angeles County.”

“By entering into this agreement, the Housing Authority and the Sheriff’s Department have made clear that they will not be parties to discrimination against Section 8 participants or allow County employees to be instruments of harassment and intimidation of African Americans and Latinos,” said Neal Dudovitz, executive director of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County.

Antelope Valley community members reacted to the news.

“The agreement sends a strong message that the Antelope Valley is one community and everyone belongs here,” said V. Jesse Smith, a founding member of The Community Action League and Antelope Valley resident. “It’s a very powerful call to rebuild trust between neighbors and an important step to healing the division in our community.”

“Our nation’s fair housing laws treat everyone equally, whether you are black, white, or Latino, in the middle class or struggling to get by,” said Ron Hasson, Southwest Area Director of the California State Conference of the NAACP.

Lancaster’s mayor has openly referred to a “war” on more than 3,000 families who participate in the Housing Choice Voucher program – the vast majority of who or black and Latino – and the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale launched a multi-pronged attack on participants and landlords who rented to them.

The result was that Section 8 participants in Lancaster and Palmdale were much more likely to be subjected to investigations than Section 8 participants anywhere in the Housing Authority’s jurisdiction. Between 2006 and 2010, the odds that a Section 8 participant would be subjected to an investigation were about 2.6 times higher in Lancaster than in the rest of County and about 3.2 times higher in Palmdale than in the rest of County.

The cities’ campaign also stoked racial animosity. After her home was pictured on an “I Hate Section 8” Facebook page, former Lancaster resident and lawsuit plaintiff Michelle Ross found racist graffiti and a swastika spray painted on her home. She later left the Antelope Valley out of fear for her family, but she called the County’s agreement a “critical step forward to helping neighbors become neighbors again.”

Plaintiffs are represented by Public Counsel, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, the NAACP Office of the General Counsel, civil rights attorney Gary Blasi, Bill Lann Lee of Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Ranker, & Jackson, P.C., the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

  8 comments for “Settlement reached in Section 8 discrimination allegations

  1. teach a man to fish
    October 7, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    I understand many people fall on hard times, and for some if those truely need help back on there feet. The problem with section 8 like most socialistic programs is that they become abused. Why should I work and contribute when I get a free stipend. This is not an attack on african american and latino, and not everyone on welfare is a deadbeat I’m but if your home owner in the Antelope Valley you may have noticed that there tends to be that home with the dead lawn, several busted cars in the driveway, and a slew of unsupervised children, Shady charaters coming and going at all hours and visits from local police. Many who fit this profile are part of the welfare system. I’m glad our local government is taking action about this problem. This settlement is nothing more in than the squeaky wheel gets the grease but know it’s also the first to be replaced

  2. LA Injustice
    January 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Steve Ipsen for Los Angeles District Attorney 2012 “Reform First”. He is the only one with a plan to change the corruption in the Los Angeles DAs office. Steve Cooley is the problem and Steve Ipsen has the solution to fix Cooley’s mess.

    • Gerald Gadsen
      January 31, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      I like what Mr. Ispen says. I believe he also came up with a victims bill of rights.

  3. T
    January 25, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    So let me get this straight, the county doesn’t want “taxpayer money” used by having the sherrif assist housing inspectors, but they could care less if the same “taxpayers” get RAPED by those who abuse the section 8 program over and over. Yeah…sure as he’ll makes sense to me!!!!!!

    • Ryan
      January 25, 2012 at 7:10 pm

      The cause all of this is the abuse of power by the Sherrif Department and it seems the Cities of Palmdale and Lancaster, with Lancaster being the worst offender, this has made The L. A. County board of Supervisors want to distance themselves from all the mess the Sherrif’s Dept. has created for themselves with the help of Mayor Rex Perris. You should thank the characters above for this new situation, if this is a glimps of new things to come you should brace yourself, there are quite a few lawsuits and investigation by various goverment department in process on both cities, but again Lancaster bieng the worst offender.

    • Jo
      January 31, 2012 at 9:53 pm

      What the hell? Now Section 8 tenants are RAPIST!!??! Talk about hyperbole. Why not do it the old fashion way, accuse them of having tails and horns, and eating white babies. Worked for the Nazi’s.
      How freaking absurd!

  4. Jo
    January 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    This is indeed great news. And the changes will be county wide. Both the county and the sheriffs have come up with new procedures, that will still allow them to catch those who abuse the system, without treating law abiding Section 8 recipients like criminals. Of course, this does leave Rex out in the cold. By making such sweeping changes, both the sheriffs and county are admitting problems with the old procedures. Rex, who can NEVER admit wrong doing, will now fight a losing battle to the bitter end. Using our money to do it of course.

  5. AV Town Crier
    January 25, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Nothing will change in Lancaster except their tactics. The King will find another to purify his kingdom and purge it of its unwanted minorities and others who speak out against the power elite.

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