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NAACP calls victory over alleged Section 8 discrimination

January 26, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other civil rights groups are claiming a major victory in a Section 8 housing battle in the Antelope Valley.

The groups held a news conference announcing an agreement was reached the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this week. They said the agreement ends what they call racial discrimination against minority Section 8 tenants in Palmdale and Lancaster.

"By the county's action, today we are saying they will not support the campaign of division and intimidation," said the NAACP's Ron Hasson.

In the agreement, the county board of supervisors voted to continue withholding funding for additional housing authority inspectors in the Antelope Valley.

County officials initially withdrew the funding last year after a lawsuit was filed against the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster by civil rights groups.

The lawsuit claims housing authority inspectors in the cities along with sheriff deputies targeted the homes of minority Section 8 tenants for raids and intimidation. The suit alleges the cities encouraged the effort to force minority tenants out of the Section 8 program in the Antelope Valley.

"Have they come and knocked on my door and kicked it in? No, they haven't. But they have treated me unfairly and unjustly? Yes they have, living right here. I have had them come to my house before," said Section 8 tenant Camelia Smith.

The settlement concludes that sheriffs will no longer accompany housing investigators during compliance checks for Section 8 tenants, according to lawyer Catherine Ihamon.

"There's a new protocol on which the entire housing authority staff will be trained," she said.

City officials with Palmdale and Lancaster deny minorities are being discriminated against in the Section 8 program.

"We're a little appalled about this. First of all, the city was never aware of the decision and the city should have been a part of the decision that was being made," said Lancaster City Council member Sandra Johnson.

Civil rights groups said while they are pleased they have reached an agreement with the county, they will not rest until they can sit with officials of Lancaster and Palmdale to come up with an agreement in those cities.