The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced an agreement with the city of Dubuque, Iowa, settling allegations that the city discriminated against African Americans. The agreement stemmed from allegations of discrimination in the administration of the city's Housing Choice Voucher Program.
A review conducted by HUD in June 2011 found that Dubuque had imposed policies that discriminated against housing choice voucher applicants based on their race.
"Specifically, the review found that, in response to racial tensions and concerns about crime, the City established a residency preference point system that effectively imposed a residency requirement, putting those from predominantly African American areas at a disadvantage," the government agency said in a release.
Dubuque's system awarded points to applicants on a cumulative basis. Those living within the city received 30 points; applicants within the county 20 point; and applicants within the state of Iowa received 15 points.
However, due to the cumulative nature of the point system, in-city applicants received significantly more points than their county or out of state counterparts—65 points to 45 and 15 points, respectively. Additionally, the city restricted applications to the program to individuals who qualified for one of the local preference points.
A review by HUD found "that applicants from the Chicago area who were adversely affected by the residency requirements differed markedly from applicants from within Iowa in one way: race."
After limiting eligibility for the program, the city stopped issuing vouchers, decreasing the size of the program by approximately 200 vouchers while simultaneously purging the wait list—removing 90 percent of applications from African Americans in 2010. The new policy left only elderly or disabled out of state residents eligible.
"HUD makes certain that people from all communities are given equal and meaningful access to taxpayer-funded programs," said Bryan Greene, HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "HUD will continue to work with state and municipal governments to ensure that no one is denied housing choice or housing assistance because of his or her race."
Under the terms of the newly reached agreement, Dubuque has eliminated its preference system, and will submit any changes to its Housing Choice Voucher distribution program to HUD for review. The city will also undertake outreach activities to underserved populations, increase and expand reporting requirements, comply with increased HUD oversight, and obtain fair housing training for core city employees.