Decatur Housing Authority hit with fines in racial discrimination investigation

The investigation revealed the housing authority purposely kept elderly black residents from living in certain apartments.

Posted: Aug 10, 2020 11:15 PM
Updated: Aug 11, 2020 9:56 AM

UPDATE: Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling provided the following statement: 

"I became aware of the review and that it had been completed on April 3, 2020. The City does not have any control over the day to day operations of the Decatur Housing Authority. I find these findings very troubling and disturbing, especially not receiving any updates from DHA and learning about the settlement in the Sunday morning news. I do not condone discrimination of any kind. We are going to make sure this never happens again and are doing an internal investigation. I run my administration on accountability and transparency and so should the DHA."

Jordan-Neill Apartments

ORIGINAL STORY: 

A three-year-long federal investigation found the Decatur Housing Authority discriminated against black people.

According to a compliance review obtained by WAAY31, it reveals the housing authority purposely kept elderly black residents from living at the Jordan-Neill and Summer Manor Apartments on the banks of the Tennessee River. 

Instead, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, while renters were given preferential treatment. Now it is having to pay $200,000 in damages. 

The majority of that money is going to the residents harmed by discrimination. That includes residents at Westgate Gardens, where many were placed to live instead. 

80-year-old Betty Horton was one of them.

"I got cancer, so I don't know when my time is going to be up," Horton said. 

Horton lives in a unit at Westgate Gardens. A unit she believes is not even up to code and has not had any renovations since she moved in.

"It'll be nine years in March, and that's a long time to stay in one place," Horton said. "That's a long time, and no nothing, not even a paintbrush, nothing and I would like them to do it while I'm here."

It is not her ideal living situation, but according to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, elderly tenants like Horton were placed in less desirable units because they are black.

"I wasn't wanting to live here," Horton said. "I was wanting to go somewhere where there were two bedrooms, it was in a little bit better shape, quieter, but here I am."

For compensation, Horton and the rest of the Westgate Garden Community received at least $1,000 from the Decatur Housing Authority last week. 

According to the investigation, some black renters were on a waiting list for more than five years to live in the towers. The probe 

"It's no surprise to me because I know discrimination has been going on for years," Resident Eddie Sears said.

Sears said Westgate was his preferred choice of where to live. He just hopes by holding the housing authority accountable, actual change will happen.

As part of the settlement, the Decatur Housing Authority is committing $1 million to upgrade the units. 

"Let us live, let us live a little bit better," Horton said. "Like I said, I don't know how long my time is."

The authority also has to update its policies on waiting and transfer lists and evictions. It will also train employees about the fair housing act and other civil rights requirements. 

We did reach out to the Decatur Housing Authority Executive Director and have not heard back. Click here for the full compliance agreement.

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