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Federal investigation finds rampant segregation, racial bias at Decatur Housing Authority

Decatur, Ala. – A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) investigation found that 94 percent of the Decatur Housing Authority’s units in towers that overlook the Tennessee River are occupied by White people, while 100 percent of the units in a housing project farther from the river are occupied by Black people. The Decatur Housing Authority provides subsidized homes for low-income elderly people.

HUD spokesman Joseph Phillips told the Associated Press that the U.S. Department of Justice found patterns of housing discrimination in Alabama and Mississippi, initiating the HUD investigation.

“Decatur Housing Authority was the most egregious,” Phillips said. WAFF reported that HUD found 15 instances “where White applicants were offered and/or placed in units at the [riverfront] Towers before black applicants even though the Black applicants were on the waiting list for a longer period of time.”

In one instance, a Black applicant was on the waiting list over 5 years for a unit at the riverfront Towers and was not offered one.

HUD also found other large differences between the Towers units and the Westgate Gardens, where the Black occupants were housed. Those at the Towers had access to walking trails, community kitchens and outdoor patios, as well as social activities, while those at Westgate Gardens did not have similar amenities. When questioned by residents about the placements, Decatur Housing Authority workers explained that “elderly Black tenants don’t like high-rise buildings and prefer living in garden-style units so they can sit on their porch and come and go as they please,” according to a letter from HUD.

The Decatur Housing Authority settled discrimination claims related to excess maintenance fees to residents at Westgate Gardens for $200,000, while also agreeing to upgrade Black-occupied Westgate Gardens units at a cost of about $1 million. The two managers who oversee the authority did not respond to an inquiry for a comment, according to the Decatur Daily.

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