LANCASTER – At a press conference Thursday, civil rights groups lauded the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for approving a settlement agreement in response to a lawsuit that accuses Lancaster and Palmdale of discriminating against Section 8 tenants. The groups called on the two cities to follow the County’s lead.
Not going to happen, said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris, when contacted Thursday.
“Just because the County ran doesn’t mean we’re gonna run,” Parris said. “This is really a situation where the way they’re administering a federal program is detrimental to the well-being of the hardworking families in this community and I’m not going to be silent about it just because some people roll over the Board of Supervisors.”
Parris said the lawsuit, which claims housing authority investigators, sheriff’s deputies and local politicians harass and discriminate against minority Section 8 voucher holders, is without merit.
“These guys can stand up there and do a press conference and lie all they want but look at the documents,” he said. “When you look at the documents you go ‘first of all, the allegations are totally without support’ and second of all, what they’re telling you is a lie.” [Read the entire complaint here.]
Parris vehemently disagrees that the lawsuit is about racial discrimination.
“That’s an absolutely lie, it’s only about fraud,” he said. “If not, then why did they eviscerate the investigators who investigate any type of fraud? They didn’t attack the way investigations are done, they got rid of the investigators. How could it be anything else?”
Parris said the County’s settlement agreement, passed on a 4-1 vote Tuesday, was a disgrace and would endanger the people of the community he was voted to lead.
“That’s why Michael Antonovich voted against it,” Parris said. “The people who voted for it, they don’t live in those neighborhoods, they don’t have to deal with these problems. The person whose district it is, voted against it.”
Parris said he submitted his own proposal about a month ago to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
“They made a proposal, HUD added to it, and then we made a counter proposal,” he said.
Parris’ counter proposal contains 18 provisions. Among them, a provision calling for HUD to conduct studies to determine correlations between the geographic concentration of Section 8 Voucher holders and mortality rates, availability of healthcare, and violent crime and property crime within Lancaster and Antelope Valley. If the studies show a correlation between geographic concentration of Section 8 Voucher holders and any of the factors considered, then HUD and the Housing Authority would work to limit the amount of Section 8 tenants and landlord agreements until the factors could be addressed. The counter proposal also calls for law enforcement to alert the Housing Authority if Section 8 tenants are arrested or convicted of disqualifying crimes.
Read the entire counter proposal here.
Palmdale City officials are reserving comment on the County’s settlement agreement until after the next City Council meeting.
“The City Council intends to discuss the pending litigation at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 1, and I anticipate that a formal statement regarding this matter will be released shortly thereafter,” wrote Palmdale Assistant City Attorney Noel Doran in a statement.