Push and pull of Section 8
Defend yourself in public housing
LANCASTER, Calif.—At last week’s Lancaster City Council meeting, Mayor R. Rex Parris asked Dorian Jenkins, deputy executive director of housing programs with the Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles, if there was a way to confiscate Section 8 vouchers from tenants who did not enroll their children in school. He asked Jenkins if he would look into federal enforcement of state laws requiring children to attend school. Parris said that it would be beneficial for the whole community.
Lancaster residents and activists have expressed publicly over the years that it appears Lancaster city government officials are attempting to rid the area of the federally funded program altogether. However, Elizabeth Brubaker, director of Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization for the City of Lancaster proclaims that through the Lancaster Neighborhood Vitalization Commission (LNVC), the city wants only to ensure Section 8 is being operating at maximum efficiency.
“(The LNVC) is seeking to make sure it is run effectively, that Section 8 is being effective and efficient in the manner of which is being administered in the City of Lancaster,” she stated. “They are seeking information to make that the housing inspections are being done, that they are meeting their goals that HUD has required them to do. They just want to be informed about what that whole process is and how it works in our city.”
She said the primary concern of the city is that “the people who are deserving of section 8 are getting section n8 and those who are committing fraud do not get section 8, making sure they get the housing inspections done in a timely manner, making sure people are living in decent, safe and sanitary conditions.”
Brubaker added that the city is also want to ensure the area is not receiving more Section 8 residents than other communities. She said the problem is that each city has limited resources for residents who may need supportive services.
She also commented that the commission has been working with Jenkins to uphold the standards of public housing in Lancaster.
Jenkins has been working with the city for a few months now, duking it out with the city council and commission members about the administration of government-funded housing.
He also sits at the table with the LNVC once a month. Although the city seemingly attempts to change the way Section 8 is distributed, Jenkins says neither the city, nor any other outside entity has the authority or power to make any changes to the program. The only influence they have is that of a suggestion box.
“They’ve made requests of us to administer the program in different ways,” Jenkins explained. “We’ve responded to them that we are governed by the federal government and we are required to administer the program in accordance to the federal government.”
The director added that local law enforcement also only has limited power, explaining that if Sheriff’s deputies believe that any Section 8 tenant is in violation of federal housing laws, they must report their findings or complaints to the Housing Authority.
Residents, however, often complain the Sheriff’s Department, which is contracted out by the city, is targeting Section 8 clients. Jenkins said according to reports from the local law enforcement, no one is being targeted.
Dept. Michael Rust, of the Lancaster Sheriff’s Department said the department accompanies the local Housing Authority office during compliance checks.
“The department does not target any specific neighborhoods,” Rust explained. When entering tenant homes, he said, “We are there with the housing authority and they have the right to enter the homes.”
Brubaker said the city itself is not out to get rid of Section 8 and is not discriminating against Section 8.
“City of Lancaster does not discriminate against Section 8 tenants in any way shape or form. So that just isn’t happening,” the director said.
The Community Action League (TCAL) disagrees. V. Jesse Smith, TCAL co-founder and community activist, said Section 8 residents are experiencing an abundance of issues including unannounced compliance checks and unnecessary aggressive questioning from compliance inspectors.
“There is a form of discrimination regarding the City of Lancaster, not the federal housing program. The City of Lancaster and in some ways, the City of Palmdale, have segregated Section 8 housing, as if they are the scum of the community,” Smith explained. “When crime happens, they always highlight that it happened in Section 8 as if they are the problem that adds to the crime in the AV.”
On Nov. 13, Section 8 residents will have the opportunity to speak to lawyers about their tenant rights at a forum hosted by The Community Action League (TCAL). Only Section 8 residents are invited to attend. Housing has been a continuous issue within the Antelope Valley. At the recent racial profiling community forums hosted by the area’s newest community development, the Merit Commission and TCAL, residents expressed not only the allegations of the Sheriff’s Department in the streets, but also the demonizing of Section 8 residents.
However, Smith said tenants are afraid to make complaints, fearing the city might find a way to jeopardize their public housing vouchers.
The Lancaster City Council is expected to vote on Dec. 11 on whether to appoint Cassandra D. Harvey to the council to replace Ron Smith, who was elected to the California State Assembly.
If approved, Harvey would be sworn in and take the seat that day and finish out the remainder of Smith’s term until April 2014.
She would also be the first African American woman to sit on the city’s governing body.
Harvey was nominated by Mayor R. Rex Parris.
PALMDALE—An agreement reached in a discrimination lawsuit between city officials and representatives of Antelope Valley residents who are part of the Section 8 Choice Voucher program is now in the hands of the federal judge overseeing the suit.
The agreement was reached last week, a week after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a similar agreement.
The judge will now have an opportunity to vet the settlements, and when approved, they will go into effect immediately.
The Antelope Valley has been battered by negative press regarding complaints of discrimination and abuse of power on part of authorities in Section 8 housing. A lawsuit was filed by a local organization, The Community Action League (TCAL) in conjunction with the local chapter of the NAACP brought the concerns to light.
Since the issue was made public, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors decided to suspend funding for Section 8 investigators for both Palmdale and Lancaster until a thorough investigation was completed.
LANCASTER, Calif.—It’s official. The cities of Lancaster and Palmdale are being sued by community members and Section 8 residents for alleged discrimination against Blacks and Latinos in public housing.
According to the complaint filed Tuesday by the Community Action League and the NAACP, as well as two private members of the community, the cities named have discriminated against Section 8 families by implementing policies that directly affect the living quality of Blacks and Latinos.
LANCASTER, Calif.—The Community Action League (TCAL) will host the Community Justice Forum on Saturday, May 14, at the Palmdale Moose Lodge from 12-4 p.m.
The forum and civil rights seminar will educate citizens about their Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights, as well as address police harassment and criminal records.
V. Jesse Smith, co-founder of the organization, says the AV is in need of this workshop, especially due to the high volume of complaints and issues individuals have shared with TCAL.