On April 15, 2014, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it had reached an agreement with the City of Dubuque, Iowa, to settle allegations that the City discriminated against African Americans in the administration of its Housing Choice (“Section 8”) Voucher Program.
In a 2011 review, HUD had found that Dubuque imposed policies that discriminated against housing choice voucher applicants based on their race through adoption of a residency preference system that put individuals from predominantly African American areas at a disadvantage. The preference system had been adopted in response to racial tensions and concerns about crime.
In a press release announcing the agreement, Bryan Greene, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, stated,
HUD makes certain that people from all communities are given equal and meaningful access to taxpayer-funded programs…. HUD will continue to work with state and municipal governments to ensure that no one is denied housing choice or housing assistance because of his or her race.
Dubuque’s preference system awarded points to applicants based on where they lived. Applicants living within the city received 30 points; applicants within Dubuque County received 20 points; and applicants within the state of Iowa received 15 points. However, due to the cumulative nature of the point system, in-city applicants received a total of 65 residency points, in-county applicants received 45 points, and in-state applicants received 15 points. The City further restricted applications to individuals who qualified for one of the local preference points. HUD’s review found that applicants from the Chicago area who were adversely affected by the residency requirements differed markedly from applicants from within Iowa in one way: race.
The HUD press release further noted
After limiting eligibility for the program, the City executed a voucher issuance freeze, so as to decrease the size of the program by roughly two hundred vouchers, and conducted a significant purge of the wait list. Purging removed 90% of the applications from African Americans in 2010. The new policies left only elderly or disabled out of state residents eligible for the program.
Under the terms of the Voluntary Compliance Agreement between HUD and Dubuque, the City will eliminate its residency preference system, and submit any future changes to its Housing Choice Voucher distribution to HUD for review and approval. In addition, the City agreed to undertake outreach activities to underserved populations, meet increased and expanded reporting requirements, comply with additional oversight from HUD, and obtain fair housing training for core city employees.
To read HUD’s press release on the settlement, click here.
To read the Voluntary Compliance Agreement between HUD and the City of Dubuque, click here.