Public housing tenants near Cleveland have obtained a $1,213,650 commitment from HUD to upgrade and desegregate their predominantly African-American development. The settlement was won by tenants of the Strickland Arms housing community located in Chagrin Falls Park, Geauga County, Ohio.
The plaintiffs' claims concerned the comparative quality and the racial composition of the family housing developments of Geauga Metropolitan Housing Authority. They also challenge community development activities carried out in Chagrin Falls Park. This federal suit was brought in 1986.
Tenants in Black Project Couldn't Drink the Water
Strickland Arms tenants have been forced for over a decade to buy bottled water because wells used for the development provided water that was not drinkable. The plaintiffs in a 1990 settlement with the Geauga County Commissioners won the right to have the water system of the City of Cleveland extended to their minority housing project. This construction project is now being completed.
The County Commissioners also agreed to establish a community transit service for Strickland Arms tenants. They agreed and to expend at least 25% of their annual CDBG funds for the next five years on programs in the area. They agreed to hire a grants consultant to find additional funds for the area, but these things never happened. Finally because of the November 1994 settlement the residents will see their housing improved and brought up to the quality and standard non-minority tenants have had since 1985.
Tenants May Move for Desegregation
The consent order commits the authority and HUD to desegregation saying: "It is the objective GMHA to promote racial integration within its housing developments, including its family developments. When more than 60 percent of the occupants of a GMHA family development are of one race, any of the families of the predominant race in such development may apply in writing for a transfer to an appropriately sized dwelling unit located in a GMHA family development in which more that 60 percent of the occupants are of a different race."
Such transfers shall be approved when they meet specific agency criteria. The order says, "An applicant for a dwelling unit may not decline an available unit of a GMHA development on the basis of the racial composition of other families in that development."
For a Cross Section of Low-Income Families
The agreed order also commits both agencies to avoiding income concentration: "The policy of the GMHA shall be to obtain and maintain a cross-section of low-income families and to avoid concentration of the most economically and socially deprived families in all developments. Eligible applicants shall be selected in order to attain a tenant body in each development composed of families of a broad range of income and rent paying ability which is generally representative of the range of incomes of low-income families in the GMHS's area of operation as defined by law."
The HUD Secretary granted GMHA a total of $1,213,650 in Comprehensive Improvement Assistance Program funds to carry out the consent order. This includes $1,078,650 for an extensive renovation of the development, and $140,000 for Plaintiffs' attorney fees and costs. A "fairness hearing" on the consent decree will be held before U. S. District Judge Paul R. Matia, on February 21, 1995. Even before the hearing, the GMHA has retained an architect and advertised for bids on improving the Strickland Arms project. Plaintiffs' counsel said, "This is a great example of two organizations pooling their legal resources to combat governmental discrimination."
Attorneys for the plaintiffs were Edward G. Kramer, Executive Director of the Housing Advocates, Inc. and Peter Iskin, attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cleveland Advocates, Inc.