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Texas city settles housing discrimination lawsuit filed by Justice Department

The city of Arlington agreed to pay an affordable housing developer over $300,000 for using discriminatory tactics to prevent the construction of a low-income apartment complex.

ARLINGTON, Texas (CN) — The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that it reached a settlement with the city of Arlington, Texas, in a housing discrimination lawsuit filed the same day.

In their 15-page complaint, Justice Department officials allege that, in 2017, the city violated the Fair Housing Act by enforcing a tax credit review policy that disfavored the development of low-income housing for families with children, also referred to as workforce housing. The policy had a stated “preference for new development of senior housing,” when it came to reviewing Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.

The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 and prohibits denying a person housing based on their race, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or for being disabled. In their preference for low-income senior housing, the Justice Department argues that the city discriminated against people based on their familial status by blocking opportunities for affordable family housing to be built.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement Thursday that the settlement should send a message that the department will use the law to protect families from housing discrimination. 

“Local governments that resort to discriminatory tactics to block the development of affordable housing and to lock out families with children will be held accountable,” said Clarke. 

The city of Arlington did not respond to requests for comment on their settlement with the Department of Justice. 

Following the city council’s adoption of the new tax review policy, Community Development Incorporated applied with the state to receive $1.5 million in tax credits for the development of an affordable multi-family, non-elderly, apartment complex. 

Of the 39 applications submitted to the state for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits in 2017, Community Development’s was the second-highest scored project for assistance eligibility from the state’s Qualified Allocation Plan. 

In order to secure the funds, Community Development submitted an application with the city, requesting they issue a Resolution of Support for the project. The department asserted that without a resolution from the city, obtaining a tax credit can be difficult. 

Community Development’s application was denied by the city as well as six other development projects similar to it. However, two affordable senior housing projects received a Resolution of Support from the city. During a meeting with the city council’s Community and Neighborhood Development Committee, Councilmember Charlie Parker voiced his opposition to supporting Community Development’s project.

“[The project] doesn’t work for us right away, so I think [I] could make a determination on that one without taking a look at it,” said Parker.

Community Development filed a housing discrimination complaint against the city with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They claimed the denial of support discriminated against families with children, the target demographic for the affordable housing complex. The department launched an investigation and determined there was reasonable cause to believe that the city of Arlington engaged in discriminatory activity.

 The complaint was later dismissed when an administrative law judge issued a notice of election to proceed in federal court.

The settlement reached between the DOJ and Arlington requires the city to pay Community Development $395,000 and implement a non-discrimination policy for future Low-Income Housing Tax Credit developments. Additionally, the city will be required to submit an annual report detailing any complaints made against the city for housing discrimination and a summary of each application sent to the city seeking a Resolution of Support.

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