HUD Reaches Settlement with Pennsylvania Housing Authority
HUD recently announced a conciliation agreement with the Housing Authority of the City of Hazleton, Pa., settling allegations the housing authority discriminated against Hispanic households. The agreement resolves claims that the housing authority violated the housing rights of Spanish-speaking applicants and tenants by requiring them to supply interpreters in order to communicate with housing authority staff and by denying them limited English proficiency services.
The case came to HUD’s attention when six Latino families represented by a nonprofit public interest law firm complained that the Hazleton Housing Authority subjected Latino applicants and residents to different rental terms and conditions in violation of the Fair Housing Act. In addition, the complaints alleged that the housing authority denied limited English proficiency services to Spanish-speaking individuals in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. Recipients of federal financial assistance, including housing authorities, must take reasonable steps to ensure that individuals with limited English proficiency have meaningful access to their programs.
The families who filed complaints are public housing and Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher recipients, tenants, and applicants for housing with limited English. Under the terms of the agreement, the housing authority will provide the nonprofit law firm with a monetary settlement of $14,000 that will be distributed among the residents who filed complaints, and $4,000 for attorney’s fees. The housing authority will provide services for complainants and others with limited English proficiency, including interpretation and translation for persons who visit, write, or call the housing authority about housing or HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program.
The housing authority must also hire bilingual Spanish-speaking staff. Housing authority employees must undergo fair housing and cultural sensitivity awareness training, and the housing authority will promote its language access services and the availability of housing to members of the Latino community when its wait list opens. In addition, the housing authority can no longer require applicants and residents to use family or friends as interpreters, including children under the age of 18.