Letter To The Editor

Letter To The Editor: Housing Authority's Policies Weren't Discriminatory

The Connecticut Law Tribune

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To the Editor:

On Nov. 15, the Law Tribune ("Protecting Potential Tenants") reported that Connecticut Fair Housing Center (CHFC) was able to uncover unfair housing practices of the Winchester Housing Authority and that the lawsuit put an end to them.

The case does bear some scrutiny, but not because it solved any wrongdoing or made the housing world a little better place. It did neither. Rather, the result was simply that it funded the CHFC and an out-of-state law firm, and gave the individual plaintiff a sum which she claims was not worth the trouble. It changed none of the policies of WHA.

This case also highlighted the problems of using "disparate impact" as a means of determining whether there is latent discrimination in an otherwise neutral housing policy.

But first the settlement. $350,000 is a lot of money. Enough to suggest wrongdoing.

The lawsuit caught WHA's insurer at a point when it was leaving this line of business and cleaning up remaining cases. The trial attorneys had nothing to do with the negotiation of this sum. It was handled by the insurer's own coverage counsel.

So now the case. When awarding Section 8 housing vouchers, the WHA gave preferences to residents of 17 towns in Litchfield County. This policy was allowed by federal Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations and approved annually by HUD.

There were so many local residents on the waiting list that it was impossible for non-residents to receive a voucher. In fact, no non-resident had received a voucher in 10 years. Because of this impossibility, WHA stopped accepting applications from non-residents.

At this time, the awarding of Section 8 vouchers were so tight throughout the state that WHA was only one of a very few housing authorities accepting applications.

Ms. Crystal Carter apparently called WHA for this reason. When she called the authority, she was helped by one of the two women administering the program, an African-American woman. According to notes of the phone call, Carter was not even aware of where Winsted was located. She was told that she could not apply because she did not reside in one of the towns served by WHA.

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