Press ReleasesOctober 10, 2012
Antelope Valley Residents and City of Lancaster Stand Together to Promote Fair Housing for Section 8 Participants
LANCASTER -- The Community Action League and the California State Conference of the NAACP announced today they will move forward with the City of Lancaster to promote fair housing for all Lancaster residents. The groups agreed to dismiss a lawsuit brought in 2011 that alleged discrimination by City officials against black and Latino participants in the federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, which provides rental assistance to more than 2,400 families in Lancaster.
“We’ve said from the day we filed this lawsuit that we want Lancaster to be one community where everyone is welcomed,” said V. Jesse Smith, a founding member of The Community Action League. “Our goal in this struggle was always to promote fair housing and end negative stereotyping of Section 8 participants. Today, we stand with Lancaster in its commitment to end the rhetoric of conflict and help this community heal.”
Under the agreement announced today, the City has committed to eliminating the perception that Section 8 participants are not welcome in Lancaster because of their race. As a visible step toward that, the City of Lancaster will create a Community Working Group, comprised of representatives of The Community Action League, the NAACP and the City government, with the power to help the City determine whether any existing City ordinance or regulation relating to rental housing, housing development, land use zoning, or public safety is causing an unjustified disparate impact on Section 8 Tenants or Section 8 Landlords.
The Working Group can review proposed ordinances on these topics and present reports to the City Council on those ordinances. The Working Group will also identify other issues of concern to the community and discuss proposals and initiatives to address those concerns.
“Lancaster has committed in the agreement to respect the rights of families to live where they choose, no matter how they pay their rent,” said Ron Hasson of the California State Conference of the NAACP. “We wanted City officials to understand that the way they talked about families, and the actions they took, too often brought fear into families’ homes and their hearts. Today we thank them for committing to honor both the letter of the law and the spirit of the struggle for freedom and civil rights.”
The TCAL and NAACP agreement with Lancaster follows an earlier agreement that the two groups reached with County of Los Angeles in January 2012 that has also contributed to community healing and understanding in the Antelope Valley. Under that agreement, the County ended a program funded by Lancaster that had led to much higher rates of termination from the Housing Choice Voucher program among Antelope Valley residents as compared to other parts of the county. The County also agreed to prevent unwarranted involvement of LA County Sheriffs' personnel in Housing Authority compliance checks anywhere in Los Angeles County.
The lawsuit is The Community Action League et al. v. City of Lancaster. Plaintiffs are represented by Public Counsel, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, the NAACP Office of the General Counsel, civil rights attorney Gary Blasi, Bill Lann Lee of Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker, & Jackson, P.C., the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, and the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.