The county had been paying half the cost for Section 8 investigators in Lancaster and Palmdale. Supervisors postpone that funding after civil rights groups say the probes are biased against low-income minorities.
Los Angeles County supervisors opted Tuesday to postpone additional funding for a subsidized housing enforcement program in Lancaster and Palmdale and called for an investigation into charges that the Antelope Valley cities are using the program to discriminate against low-income ethnic minorities.
The county had been contributing half the cost of extra investigators in the two cities to ensure that landlords and tenants comply with the regulations of the federal Section 8 housing voucher program. But a lawsuit filed in federal court by the NAACP earlier this month charged that Lancaster and Palmdale are waging an "unrelenting war" against blacks and Latinos who receive public assistance.
The lawsuit alleged that the cities conduct unfair surprise "compliance checks" of Section 8 residents, the majority of whom are black and Latino. Housing inspectors were often accompanied by armed Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, and overzealous enforcement had cost as many as 200 local minority families their federal housing assistance each year in the Antelope Valley, the suit charged.
At Tuesday's board meeting, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, whose district includes the Antelope Valley, made the motion to put off the decision to renew funding for the program until after county housing officials investigate the allegations.
Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said he was disappointed by the board's decision. He told supervisors that the Antelope Valley had been inundated by the county's poor and lacked sufficient social services to handle their needs.
"This really isn't about race," Parris said. "Since the beginning of time kings have sent their poor into the desert and they have sent them there to wither and die. That is exactly what's going on today."
Here's my 2008 short story about renting to Section 8 tenants in the high desert.