HUD Settles Claim Against City of Hemet, CA Over Discriminatory “Crime and Nuisance Free” Ordinances
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) has entered into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement with the City of Hemet, California over a claim that its “Crime and Nuisance Free” ordinances were in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
According to HUD, Helmet’s “Rental Registration, Crime-Free Rental Housing, and Abatement of Chronic Nuisance programs were enacted for discriminatory reasons and targeted minority residents ….”
Over the past seven years, the city spent about a million dollars in Community Development Block Grant funds on the enforcement of ordinances which imposed penalties on property owners based upon the annual number of calls made to law enforcement or to code enforcement for nuisance activity at a property. HUD also noted that the ordinances did not have safeguards for individuals with disabilities. Additionally, the ordinances required landlords to enforce a crime-free lease addendum mandating immediate eviction for a single act of broadly defined criminal activity. Finally, landlords also were subject to annual inspections, fees, and a registration process that required the property to be kept “free from crime, nuisances and other unwanted behavior.”
Allegedly, these ordinances were being unfairly enforced in a discriminatory manner against classes of persons protected under the Fair Housing Act. You can read the Compliance Agreement here.
“Programs that purport to make housing ‘crime free’ or free of ‘nuisances’ may not be used as tools for enacting discriminatory housing policies and practices,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “A person’s race or nationality should not dictate where they may live, and we’re pleased that this agreement commits the city to ending its unlawful programs.”
Michael B. Williams, HUD Principal Deputy General Counsel added: “HUD is committed to enforcing fair housing and civil rights laws, including Title VI, and will continue to ensure that its grantees comply with their obligation not to discriminate on the basis of any protected class. HUD will continue to protect the right to be free from housing discrimination.”