Dubuque Settles HUD’s Discrimination Allegations

HUD recently announced an agreement with the city of Dubuque, Iowa, settling allegations that the city discriminated against African Americans in the administration of its Housing Choice Voucher program.

The agreement came about as the result of a review HUD conducted in June 2011, which found that Dubuque imposed policies that discriminated against Housing Choice Voucher applicants based on their race. Specifically, the review found that, in response to racial tensions and concerns about crime, the city established a residency preference point system that effectively imposed a residency requirement, putting those from predominantly African-American areas at a disadvantage.

Dubuque’s preference system awarded points to applicants on a cumulative basis. Applicants living within the city received 30 points; applicants within Dubuque County 20 points; and applicants within the state of Iowa 15 points. However, due to the cumulative nature of the point system, in-city applicants received 65 residency points, in-county applicants received 45 residency points, and in-state applicants received 15. In addition, the city restricted applications to the program to only individuals who qualified for one of the local preference points. HUD’s review revealed 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.

After limiting eligibility for the program, the city executed a voucher issuance freeze, so as to decrease the size of the program by roughly 200 vouchers, and conducted a significant purge of the wait list. Purging removed 90 percent 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 agreement, Dubuque eliminated its residency preference system, and will 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.