DECATUR, Ala – Earlier this week WHNT NEWS 19 reported that the Decatur Housing Authority is required to pay $200,000 in damages as part of a settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
This is the result of a 2019 Compliance review conducted by HUD, that says the Decatur Housing Authority maintained discriminatory practices at three of it’s senior living facilities.
The review says elderly black residents were skipped on the wait list for the Towers located on the banks of the Tennessee River and steered toward less desirable units at Westgate Gardens.
The review began after the Department of Justice alerted HUD to concerns about apparent patterns of housing segregation at Summer Manor, Jordan-Neill, and Westgate Gardens.
Wednesday, the Decatur Housing Authority denied those claims.
In a statement provided to WHNT News 19, DHA says while it cooperated with the investigation and entered into a settlement, the housing authority maintains that neither the organization, ‘nor its employees or representatives have ever engaged in acts of intentional racial discrimination.’
One family at Westgate Gardens says they have problems with bugs. They say they’ve also been waiting more than two years to have multiple maintenance issues fixed, including faulty light switches and peeling paint on the kitchen ceiling.
“About two, maybe three years since it started peeling,” said Betty Horton. She have lived at Westgate Garden for nine years.
The housing authority’s statement says they did not engage intentional acts of discrimination.
In June, DHA and HUD entered into a voluntary compliance agreement. The housing authority says it entered into the settlement at the federal government’s request, ‘and to avoid the burden and expense of protracted litigation.’ DHA says the settlement was not an admission of guilt.
That said, DHA says that its senior living properties are, ‘not integrated to the extent it desires and expects,’ and the agreement shows its commitment to equality.
According to a press release from HUD, Decatur Housing Authority must update its policies relating to its waiting and transfer lists and evictions, and train current and new employees who have contact with applicants or residents about Title VI, the Fair Housing Act.
As part of the settlement, the housing authority is required to pay $200,000 in damages. A portion of that will be used for the purpose of compensating anyone who applied for housing at the Towers from January 1st, 2017 to May 30, 2020, who HUD determines may have been harmed by DHA’s discriminatory practices.
Another portion of that money will go to nine specific people who were on the wait list. In addition to that, every single person who lives at Westgate Gardens will also be entitled to part of the settlement.
DHA also committed to spending upwards of one million dollars to improve Westgate, including renovating kitchens, making structural repairs, and landscaping.
But for one resident who lives there, words don’t mean much. Only actions.
“I’ll believe when I see it,” Horton said.
This is a developing story. There are many deadlines the Decatur Housing Authority must meet as part of this settlement. We will be following this closely.
HUD is asking for anyone who believes they have been a victim of discrimination to contact’s HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 or visit how to file a complaint on HUD’s website.