ALBERTVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - An Albertville memo on communal living is drawing the attention of state and regional social justice groups.
It lays out the legal consequences of multiple families living in a home, including fines and jail time, citing an existing Albertville zoning ordinance.
A state health order paused evictions during the pandemic, and Albertville’s Police Chief Jame Smith said code in question could not be enforced until after the order is lifted.
On April 22, Albertville City leaders published a memo which reminded Albertville citizens of COVID-19 safety procedures and stated in part:
"...we are aware that there are residences that have more than one family residing within the house. This is not allowed by ordinance within (sic) the city limits of the City of Albertville. Zoning Ordinance No. 1545-15 allows for only one family in each residential dwelling in any part of the city. The ordinance carries with a penalty of not less than $50.00 or more than $200.00 and/or a 30 day jail sentence with each day that the violation continues being considered a separate offense.
In an effort to help combat the virus, it would only make sensee that the more people inside a residence, the more likely that the virus will spread. We would like to take this opportunity to make you aware that we do our best to correct this problem and make sure that all dweilling have only one family living there. We are asking for your help and cooperation with this problem."
Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice Interim Executive Director Allison Hamilton said enforcing the code would be counter-productive to COVID-19 effort, and would target the immigrant community.
“The idea of scaring people into their homes goes against the full shelter in place recommendation,” she said.
Albertville Mayor Tracy Honea said the memo is designed to be “educational” and not to target any group.
“We’re not trying to single out anybody, this was a message to all the residents," he said.
Albertville Police Chief Jamie Smith said there was no one area in Albertville where the communal living was more of an issue. However, he said there are safety concerns.
“The more we can stop it and slow it and flatten the curve been the mantra with it, if you’ve got a landlord that knows that’s going on, don’t allow that anymore," Smith said.
He said his officers didn’t actively search for code violations before the pandemic, but cited issues when found. He there have since been complaints.
Hamilton said code won’t bring desired results.
”They’re not going to be relocating into a single family home. They’re just going to be relocating to a different county where they have other family or friends that are willing take them in. It’s just an issue of housing affordability more than it is about wanting to live in close proximity," she said.
Isabel Flores-Ganley, senior outreach paralegal at the Southern Poverty Law Center, issued this statement:
“We are concerned that this letter will result in Latinx families being targeted and removed from their homes in a time of crisis. The Albertville Police Department claims the enforcement of Zoning Ordinance No. 1545-15 during this pandemic is for health and safety, but threatening to remove people from their homes runs counter to that goal. We will continue to monitor this situation and urge Albertville officials to consider the negative consequences of taking this step.”
Honea said he will work any concerned citizens about the ordinance.