Pennsylvania PHA Charged with Racial Discrimination


The federal government has charged the Altoona Housing Authority in Pennsylvania with racial discrimination for applying tighter eviction standards for a black resident than for whites. The PHA denies the charges filed by HUD on behalf of a former resident and plans to defend itself.

In 2009, Altoona police cited the resident for disorderly conduct for "screaming and yelling and using obscene language [and] causing public alarm" in an altercation with a neighbor. Shortly afterward, the PHA moved to evict her without permitting a grievance hearing, based on a policy that doesn't allow one if there's a charge of criminal activity that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment by PHA residents, according to HUD's charging document.

The resident filed a discrimination complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and HUD, which has uncovered the cases of three white tenants the PHA treated with more leniency, according to the charging documents—which allege violations of the Fair Housing Act.

According to HUD, the quick reaction to evict the resident was different from the reaction in the cases of the three white tenants. For example, Tenant A was involved in six separate disturbances between 2008 and September 2011 before the PHA moved to evict—and then only after the Human Relations Commission questioned why Tenant A was being treated more favorably than the resident, according to HUD. Even then, when the PHA moved to evict, it offered Tenant A a grievance hearing, according to HUD.

Tenant A made inappropriate sexual advances to a housing authority employee; harassed her boyfriend while under the influence of alcohol, according to the boyfriend, who called police; yelled, screamed, and hit her parents outside her unit, according to a neighbor who called police; pleaded guilty to public drunkenness and disorderly conduct outside her unit; had an unauthorized person living in her unit who caused a disturbance; and punched holes in the wall of her unit, according to allegations made in a call to police, stated HUD.

Tenant B was involved in two disturbances in 2009, one in which she, her boyfriend, and her brother threatened the parents of a child around whose neck her own child had placed his hands; and the other in which she called a neighbor who came out for a cigarette a derogatory name and told her to "go back into [expletive] house," according to HUD. The PHA didn't move to evict for either incident.

Tenant C was involved in three incidents in 2008—a loud party and two screaming altercations, all of which led police to show up, with no move to evict, according to HUD.