It has taken far too long, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development has finally intervened in an outrageous case of housing discrimination by the government of St. Bernard Parish, an overwhelmingly white district adjacent to New Orleans.
Since 2006, in defiance of the Fair Housing Act and several federal court orders, the local government has restricted construction of affordable housing developments with the clear intent of keeping African-American residents out of the district. HUD has now threatened to strip the parish of $91 million in federal aid unless it repeals discriminatory ordinances and complies with the law.
The restrictive ordinances were only the latest in a series of creative exclusionary strategies. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, for instance, the parish approved an ordinance prohibiting property owners from renting to people who were not family members or related by blood. Since 93 percent of the homeowners are white, the provision was clearly aimed at residents in the adjacent, mainly African-American parts of New Orleans that suffered some of the worst damage from the flood.
Officials passed a measure requiring a public vote on multifamily dwellings of more than six units. Repeated maneuvers like this one seem finally to have exhausted the federal government’s patience.
The parish has promised to repeal its discriminatory ordinances at a meeting scheduled for April 5. Federal officials should stand ready to revoke financing at the first sign of backsliding.
Read full story at NYTimes