FL public housing residents win settlement from HUD

In an agreement settling a class action lawsuit, filed by public housing residents in Miami-Dade County, Florida, will provide increased housing opportunities for low-income African-American families. The Miami-Dade County Commission voted in June to approve the agreement, which resolves longstanding allegations concerning segregation of African-American families in public housing.

The agreement responds to claims of racial discrimination raised by African-American public housing residents, who alleged that HUD and the Miami-Dade Housing Authority have denied them equal access to Section 8 rental assistance that would allow them to rent privately owned apartments.

HUD will provide African-American public housing residents opportunities to receive rental assistance certificates and vouchers, which will be accompanied by mobility counseling and incentives to encourage the families to move to mixed-income neighborhoods in Miami and Dade County.

The settlement also includes several provisions designed to benefit and integrate the County's public housing developments. HUD will offer Hispanics, Asians, and whites mobility counseling and incentives to encourage them to move into family public housing. Applicants can state preferences for particular developments, and group moves will be available.

In addition, the agreement calls for the creation of a fair housing center, which will be primarily responsible for the mobility counseling and for offering clearinghouse-type services available to all low-income families and for conducting outreach to potential Section 8 landlords in non-poverty neighborhoods.

The parties submitted the negotiated consent decree to Judge James C. Paine of the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach. Because this is a class action lawsuit, the court will hold a fairness hearing September 25, 1998. African-American residents initially filed the suit in 1987 against Miami-Dade County and amended it in late 1990 to include HUD.