African American family wins $55,000 and new house in race case against Tennessee city

In December 2002, the United States Department of Justice reached a settlement with the City of Mount Pleasant, Tennessee; the South Central Tennessee Development District (SCTDD); a housing inspector, and an SCTDD employee. The settlement calls for an African American family to receive $55,000 and a newly built home to resolve claims that the City and the SCTDD discriminated against them because of their race in the City’s HOME program.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsors the HOME program to provide low-income persons with funds to make repairs to their homes. According to the Justice Department complaint, Mount Pleasant’s HOME program, which was administered by SCTDD provided more funding, better services, and more options to white participants than to African American
participants in the program.

Specifically, white participants were told that they could receive new countertops, vinyl siding, kitchen cabinets, flooring, and new windows under the HOME program. Additionally, white participants were told that they could receive a new home altogether if repair costs amounted to more than the value of their homes. Rosalyn Baker, an African American widow with three sons, was denied these services and options, even though her home ranked highest in needed repairs as  compared to all but one white participant.

Though some work was done on African American family’s home, whites received more/better repairs

Additionally, although the City and SCTDD performed some rehabilitation work on Baker’s home, the repairs did not bring her home into compliance with local housing codes, which is the aim of the HOME program. The Justice Department complaint alleged that white participants in the City’s HOME program did have their homes brought into compliance with local building codes.

After learning that white participants in the HOME program were receiving more repairs and more options than she was receiving, Baker filed a complaint of housing discrimination with HUD against the City of Mount Pleasant and the SCTDD. The complaint, filed in October 1999, also named Carl Martin, a Mount Pleasant housing inspector, and Roger Joe Evans, a project manager for SCTDD. After Baker filed her HUD complaint, the City and SCTDD offered her a replacement home.

HUD investigators conducted an investigation into Baker’s complaint, and HUD Secretary Mel Martinez issued a Charge of Discrimination against the respondents in April 2001. HUD attempted to conciliate the case but was unsuccessful. The respondents then elected to remove the case from HUD and have it heard in federal court. The Justice Department filed its case on behalf of Baker in June 2001. The case settled on December 16, 2002.

Family’s new home must have certain amenities to comply with settlement

The newly constructed home as agreed upon in the settlement will include the following features: The Baker replacement home must be built according to the following specifications and must contain the following items: four bedrooms, each with a privacy door and a closet with a door; two full bathrooms, each with a toilet, a vanity and a sink, and a bathtub/shower unit; a kitchen; a four-burner kitchen stove and an exhaust fan and hood; a frost-free refrigerator with separate freezer compartment; a stainless steel kitchen sink and faucets; stained and sealed, solid wood, birch base and wall kitchen cabinets with Formica counter-tops; washer and dryer hook-ups; a 40-gallon water heater; a living room; a dining room; air-conditioning and central heat; lighting fixtures; electrical outlets of a sufficient number to meet code requirements;  floor coverings for each room; a front porch constructed out of treated pine; a back porch and deck constructed out of treated pine; security lighting and smoothing the lot after construction and seeding and strawing the lot; exterior gutters; vinyl siding or exterior painting; an  exterior, and a wood privacy fence. The home must contain at least 1,500 square feet of living space.

To learn more about the Justice Department’s fair housing program and its list of ongoing and recently settled fair housing cases, see http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/index.html. To contact the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, write to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, Washington, D.C. 20530.

The Department of Justice’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section handles fair housing lawsuits throughout the United States.

United States v. City of Mount Pleasant
Case No. 1-01-0069 (M.D. Tenn, Coumbia Division)
The Honorable Thomas A. Higgins, U.S. District Judge
Kenneth D. Johnson, trial attorney for plaintiffs
Case filed: June 29, 2001
Consent Order and Settlement: December 16, 2002