HUD files charges of discrimination against Boston Housing Authority

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has filed charges of discrimination against the Boston Housing Authority (BHA).  In its complaint against BHA, HUD asserts that the authority failed to stop white tenants from harassing African-American and Hispanic families even though BHA officials knew the harassment was taking place.

HUD filed the charges on behalf of nine African-American and Hispanic families, including twenty-five children.  All of the families lived in either the Bunker Hill development in Charlestown or the Old Colony development in South Boston between 1992 and 1996. 

According to HUD, minority tenants were beaten, assaulted, threatened and intimidated by white tenants from 1992 to 1996.  White tenants also vandalized the home and cars of minority tenants.  In one case in 1996, an administrative civil rights agency ordered that the BHA pay $100,000 for ignoring the complaints of black tenant John Love.  Love asserted that white tenants had vandalized his apartment and car, threatened him with a gun and a dog, and left human and canine fecal matter and Ku Klux Klan literature on his doorstep.  (See December 1996 Advocate.) 

In Love's complaint, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination criticized the BHA for not responding to Love's repeated requests for help.  Regulations require that the BHA's civil rights unit investigate all complaints of racial harassment, but it did not do so in Love's case.  In fact, the BHA's only action occurred when Love's white neighbors filed complaints against him.

In this most recent HUD complaint, investigators said that the BHA failed to investigate many complaints filed by minority tenants and ignored their requests for emergency apartment transfers.  HUD also asserted that the BHA took no action to stop the harassment, even when they knew which tenants were responsible.  The BHA had the power to evict the troublemakers but did nothing.

In another twist, HUD expressed concern about the BHA's decision to transfer a housing authority police officer from Old Colony.  According to residents, the officer had attempted to stop a group of white youths from harassing minority residents.  A group of white residents calling themselves the Old Colony Tenants Task Force demanded that the officer be transferred.  The BHA gave into the group's demand.

In a press release, HUD claimed that this is the first time the Department has filed charges involving systemic racial discrimination.  HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo has asked Special Counsel Mercedes Marquez to investigate whether or not the BHA had improved its practices since 1996.