The U.S. District Court of Maryland granted final approval of a settlement of the 17-year-old civil rights case known as Thompson v. HUD on November 20. The case was filed by African-American public housing residents against HUD, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) and the City of Baltimore. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) announced the filing of a proposed settlement in August (see Memo, 8/31).
The ACLU of Maryland originally sued in 1995. A 1996 partial settlement included a pilot project that eventually became the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program, a voluntary program that enables Baltimore public housing residents to choose to move to mixed-income neighborhoods throughout the Baltimore region.
The case was brought to trial in 2003, and in early 2005, a federal district court judge held that HUD violated the Fair Housing Act of 1968 by unfairly concentrating African-American public housing residents in the most impoverished, segregated areas of Baltimore City. The judge ruled that HUD must take a regional approach to promoting fair housing opportunities for African-American public housing residents.
The key feature of the approved settlement is HUD’s agreement to continue the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program. Over the last decade, this program has offered more than 1,800 public housing families the option of moving from high-poverty areas to neighborhoods throughout the Baltimore region with low poverty rates and better educational and economic opportunities. Each family that chooses to move receives a Housing Choice Voucher, housing and credit counseling, and other supports to smooth the transition. Under the settlement, similar opportunities will be provided to 400 additional families each year through 2018.
“HUD is pleased that the parties have resolved this longstanding civil rights case in such a positive and productive manner,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "We know that when a family chooses a place to live, they are not just choosing a home, but also a school for their children, quality public services, and a foundation on which to build their lives. Today’s settlement goes a long way toward furthering HUD’s mission of creating more inclusive and sustainable communities that provide affordable housing opportunities for those who need them."
“Safe communities with good schools should be available to every American family, regardless of their race,” said Joshua Civin, an attorney at LDF, which represents the plaintiff families.
The Settlement Agreement and background information is available from LDF at http://bit.ly/Q0JmO8. An LDF media release is available at http://bit.ly/U86czo. A HUD media release is available at http://1.usa.gov/U86dDn.