City and Hammond Housing Authority Settle Discrimination Complaint
HUD recently announced that the city of Hammond, Ind., and the Hammond Housing Authority (HHA) agreed to pay Maria Becerra, the former executive director of HHA, $200,000 to settle allegations that the city and HHA terminated her employment because she administered a HUD-funded rental assistance program that helped minority families move into predominantly white neighborhoods. In addition, HHA agreed to reopen its Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program waiting list and inform the public about the reopening of the list.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate in housing because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status. The act also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person for supporting the housing rights of others. In March 2012, Becerra filed a complaint with HUD, alleging that in December of 2011 she was wrongfully terminated from her position as executive director of the HHA because she assisted persons using HCVs in finding housing in the Hammond neighborhood of their choice. Becerra further alleged that the mayor of Hammond made public statements supporting her ouster, claiming that the HCV program had grown “out of control” and “exploded” during her tenure.
Under the terms of the Conciliation Agreement and Voluntary Compliance Agreement that settled these allegations, relevant city and HHA staff and board members will receive fair housing training; the mayor of Hammond will issue a public statement in support of HCVs and the HCV program in Hammond; the city and HHA will sponsor a public outreach forum to encourage landlord participation in the HCV program; and HHA will expend at least 97 percent of its annual HCV budget each year.