Decatur Housing Authority discriminated against Black residents, federal housing officials say

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DECATUR, Ala. – The Decatur Housing Authority maintained discriminatory practices at three of it’s senior living facilities, according to a compliance review conducted by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Now, DHA will have to pay $200,000 to make things right.

Many people dream about retiring somewhere with a scenic view. At the Jordan-Niell and Summer Manor Apartments (the Towers) on the banks of the Tennessee River, elderly, low income residents have that opportunity, too. But HUD says, these government subsidized housing properties repeatedly skipped over black applicants even though they were next in line to move in.

The review was conducted at the end of 2019 after the Department of Justice notified HUD that there were concerns regarding apparent patterns of housing segregation in three elderly housing properties maintained by the Decatur Housing Authority.

In addition to finding that DHA was skipping over elderly black residents on the waiting list for the two water front apartments, it also pointed out that DHA steered black applicants to what it calls ‘less desirable units’ at Westgate Gardens. A press release from HUD calls the apartment complex a ‘racially and ethnically concentrated’ property.

The two departments reached a voluntary compliance agreement at the end of June that resulted in Decatur Housing Authority paying $200,000 to create a victims’ fund and directly compensate residents harmed by the discrimination. $90,000 of that will be paid to 9 black tenants  who were on the wait list.

The settlement says DHA anticipates spending upwards of $1 million on renovating Westgate Gardens. The housing authority agrees to refrain from discrimination or retaliation.

The authority also had to update its policies on waiting and transfer lists and evictions, and also train employees about the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights requirements.

But as to how things got so bad in the first place, WHNT News 19 is working to get the full picture.

Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling appointed DHA’s board chair. The mayor says the DHA board did not notify him about discrimination concerns or the settlement. In fact, he says he first learned about the settlement weeks after it was reached when it was reported in the news.  He says the city has already launched an internal investigation, adding he finds this troubling, concerning, and is going to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

 WHNT News 19 also contacted DHA board chair Albert Ridgeway. He says DHA is going to abide by the agreement. WHNT asked why the mayor was not notified about the settlement.   He said that he had not seen the mayor and that the Decatur Housing Authority doesn’t have anything to do with the city.   

A spokesperson for the board says they will release a statement some time within the next 24 hours.

You can read the full agreement here.

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