HUD Reaches Settlement with Hazleton Housing Authority Resolving Claims of Discrimination Against Latinos
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced a Conciliation Agreement with the Housing Authority of the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, settling allegations the housing authority discriminated against Hispanic households. The agreement resolves claims the housing authority violated the housing rights of Spanish-speaking applicants and tenants by requiring them to supply interpreters in order to communicate with housing authority staff and by denying them limited English proficiency services.
The case came to HUD’s attention when six Latino families represented by the Community Justice Project, a non-profit public interest law firm serving Pennsylvania, complained that the Hazleton Housing Authority subjected Latino applicants and residents to different rental terms and conditions in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
In addition, the complaints alleged the housing authority denied limited English proficiency services to Spanish-speaking individuals in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI). The families who filed complaints are public housing and Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher recipients, tenants, and applicants for housing with limited English.
“When housing authorities accept HUD funding they are obligated to make their programs and services accessible to individuals who have limited English proficiency,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD is committed to ensuring that all eligible families have an equal opportunity to take advantage of this important source of affordable housing and today’s agreement advances that goal.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the housing authority will provide the Community Justice Project with a monetary settlement of $14,000 that will be distributed among the residents who filed complaints, and $4,000 for attorney’s fees. The housing authority will provide services for complainants and others with limited English proficiency, including interpretation and translation for persons who visit, write, or call the housing authority about housing or HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program.
The housing authority must also hire bilingual Spanish-speaking staff. Housing authority employees must undergo fair housing and cultural sensitivity awareness training, and the housing authority will promote its language access services and the availability of housing to members of the Latino community when its wait list opens.In addition, the housing authority can no longer require applicants and residents to use family or friends as interpreters, including children under the age of 18.
Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. Recipients of federal financial assistance, including housing authorities, must take reasonable steps to ensure that individuals with limited English proficiency have meaningful access to their programs. In addition, the Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate in the rental or sale of housing or to impose different terms and conditions on applicants and residents because of national origin, race, color, religion, sex, familial status or disability.
Persons who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed at www.hud.gov/fairhousing or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.