EXCLUSIVE: HUD Investigates Atlanta Public Housing Complaint

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(APN) ATLANTA — The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has begun an investigation in response to a complaint filed by resident leaders in Atlanta regarding the Atlanta Housing Authority’s plans to demolish all Atlanta public housing, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

“To answer your question about the complaint, yes, we have received it and we are looking into it. However, we do not comment on ongoing investigations,” Shantae Goodloe, HUD spokesperson, told Atlanta Progressive News in an email.

After receiving no reply for weeks, Diane Wright, President of the Resident Advisory Board (RAB) for Atlanta, placed a phone call following up on the Board’s August 08, 2007, letter, to James Sutton, HUD’s Region IV Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Director.

Since then, HUD has taken initial action. Both Wright and an attorney, Lindsay Jones of Emory University, have already been interviewed by Cynthia Houston, a HUD official, and Jones has been interviewed by an additional analyst, Wright said.

As reported first by Atlanta Progressive News, the complaint sent to HUD argues that Atlanta Housing Authority’s (AHA) plan to demolish all Atlanta public housing has a discriminatory impact on Blacks in Atlanta, who make up the majority of public housing residents and low-income renters in the city.

The complaint also argues that AHA has failed to engage in meaningful consultation with the residents as required by law during any demolition/disposition process under Section 18.

Previously, on May 07, 2007, residents and advocates sent a letter to Robert Young, HUD Region IV Regional Director, asking for a moratorium on the demolitions until such a fair housing investigation by HUD could take place, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.

Residents and advocates had met previously with HUD officials in Atlanta, and during that meeting, Young had requested they send in an official complaint, Anita Beaty, Executive Director of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, said.

Young has not responded to the May 07, 2007, letter, Beaty and Wright said.

However, a colleague of Joe Beasley, an advocate for the Task Force, suggested a letter be sent to James Sutton regarding the fair housing investigation, Beaty said. Beasley’s colleague used to work for HUD, Beaty said. When residents and advocates contacted Sutton, Sutton expressed interest in receiving a formal fair housing complaint, Beaty said.

Unfortunately, weeks after sending the August 08, 2007, letter, the RAB Board had not received a response either.

“I called Mr. Sutton’s office. I talked to the secretary. First I got his voice mail and he said he wouldn’t be back to the 17th [of September]. I explained to her what I was calling about. She said, nobody responded? I said neither Mr. Young nor Mr. Sutton had,” Wright told Atlanta Progressive News.

“Then what she did was say I’ll get someone to call you back. It was the next day, Ms. Houston called me and she said that she was gonna go find the complaint and that they were gonna get someone assigned to work on the complaint. So to me they had buried our complaint. Then, she said she saw it but that no one was assigned to it,” Wright recalled.

“We’ve been communicating from then on. I talked to her Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday [of last week], she’s been calling me every day. They’re working on it now,” Wright said.

“She talked to her boss, Mr. Sutton, who was in Boston. I guess when she read the complaint he knew it had to be a lawyer who drew it up. He said, y’all have a lawyer don’t you?” Wright said.

“Monday [of this week], she said it was turned over to an analyst. The analyst is to find out if they are within their jurisdiction to do the investigation. It sounded like she wanted to do an investigation. There’s certain laws that’s over the documentation that they can answer there. They may have to have some of it sent over to a different department,” Wright said.

“She asked me did I know if any [demolition/disposition] applications were in for the other sites, and I said no, they weren’t. But they could look that up. I told her about Terence [Courtney, being forced out a resident meeting by AHA security]. I told her the senior citizens couldn’t have a meeting. I told her they never consulted us about the demolition/disposition. They came and told us what they’re going to do. They never came and showed us anything because they don’t have anything to show,” Wright said.

“We talked 30-40 minutes each day. She was coming back with questions. I have a good feeling and I believe they have jurisdiction, I believe they’re just going through the process,” Wright said.

“I told her, they told us first they were going under the URA [Uniform Relocation Act] and then from that they came back again and told us it was Section 18. They didn’t give us the [law] numbers and we had to look them up. I talked to her about the utility moneys [which AHA underfunded]. That they were pre-moving residents and I knew it was against the law,” Wright said.

“Mainly, I was doing to the most talking. She was just listening and asking questions. So that she would really know it was all about. I think she was interested in all of it because all of it was pertaining to residents and the displacement,” Wright said.

“I told her to read the articles in the Atlanta Progressive News. She’s been reading the articles,” Wright said.

Wright said she has not heard from the analyst yet but wanted to give them time to review the materials. Wright said she did not know how long the jurisdictional review would take, or how long the investigation itself might take.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor of The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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Our syndicaton policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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