Civil rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit accusing Lancaster, California, and neighboring cities of unfairly singling out Latino and Black residents who use Section 8 vouchers to pay rent.
In an area where three-bedroom houses rent for the price of a small apartment in Los Angeles, the number of people who use the vouchers has more than doubled in the last decade. The overwhelmingly once-white populated city has now become one-third Caucasian and residents of color are saying that they are facing unannounced visits from the sheriff deputies and county housing agents. In the lawsuit, one plaintiff says that sheriff deputies showed up at her door repeatedly, intimidating her four children, and after neighbors learned of their financial situation, a group of boys threw urine at her youngest son and yelled racial epithets.
“They’ve made criminals out of everyone associated with Section 8,” Jesse Smith, a leader of the local NAACP, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told the New York Times. “They just want to keep everything the way it was for the good-old-boy network.”
The visits, however, could be a result of the Mayor’s views of Section 8 housing. He says that Section 8, which provides housing vouchers to low income families, is consequently causing a disproportionate amount of poor families to live in the area, a “problem that is crushing our community.” Though he says that the attacks should not be tolerated, he says that the advocates filing the lawsuit are acting as “poverty pimps who are just looking for attention.”
Residents are not happy with the unexpected visits and in addition to the investigations, the lawsuit claims that there have been efforts to have residents’ vouchers revoked — an act that makes it almost impossible to have one reinstated.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development agreed to investigate the accusations last month. The city could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants.
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(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)