Federal Investigation: White people given preferential treatment at Decatur Housing Authority

Updated: Aug. 10, 2020 at 5:00 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The Decatur Housing Authority must pay 200-thousand dollars in damages after a federal investigation determined management discriminated against black people.

The three yearlong investigation states the housing authority violated the Civil Rights Act by placing black applicants on a waiting list and skipping over their names to place white people in higher-end, waterfront apartments.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said the units at the WestGate Gardens are occupied by black people. When some of them applied for housing at more desirable properties like Jordan Neill and Summer Manor, locally known as The Towers, they were overlooked, and white renters were given preferential treatment.

135-thousand dollars will go directly towards residents harmed by the discrimination and the remaining will go towards training employees about the Fair Housing Act.

The investigation began in 2017 when the Department of Justice started recognizing patterns of housing discrimination in Alabama.

HUD conducted a Compliance Review to assess the housing authority’s compliance with Title VI. As a result, HUD identified discrimination in the housing authority’s rental policies, waiting lists, and transfer requests with regard to its senior residents.

HUD paperwork cites multiple examples in which black applicants on the waiting list for The Towers were not offered units as they became available. Rather, they were offered units only at WestGate Gardens despite being on both lists. HUD found more than a dozen times where white applicants were placed in units at The Towers before black applicants even though the black applicants were on the waiting list for a longer period of time. According to HUD a black applicant was placed on the waiting list for more than five years and never offered a unit.

According to the Decatur Daily authority workers repeatedly explained the lack of Black residents in the waterfront buildings by claiming elderly Black tenants don't like high-rise buildings and prefer living in "garden-style units so they can sit on their porch and come and go as they please."

Decatur Housing Authority has committed one million dollars for upgrades at WestGate Gardens.

If they don't follow the HUD agreement, a spokesperson said HUD can cut off financial assistance.

The Housing Director with Decatur Housing Authority told 48 News he will be releasing a statement about the settlement and investigation within the next 24 hours.

We will keep you posted.

To Read the full settlement click here.

“Families who count on being able to access limited affordable housing should have an equal chance to obtain it,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Today’s settlement reflects HUD’s ongoing commitment to working with housing providers to ensure that they comply with their obligations under Title VI.”

Persons who believe they have experienced housing discrimination may file a complaint of discrimination by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 or visiting How to File a Complaint on HUD’s website.

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