Feds: Michigan County Contributed to Housing Segregation

By: - June 21, 2018 12:00 am

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, left, and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan visit a community center in Detroit. HUD filed a complaint against Oakland County, Michigan, for alleged housing segregation. The Detroit metro area is one of the most segregated in the country. Mike Householder/AP

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has filed a complaint accusing Oakland County, Michigan, of implementing housing policies that perpetuate housing segregation in the Detroit metro area.

According to the complaint, the Detroit region is by some measures “the most segregated in the country,” and “Oakland County and its constituent municipalities have a documented history of using local regulations, policies and processes to exclude racial and ethnic minority households.”

HUD alleges that Oakland County officials have consistently excluded minority households from federally funded housing assistance. HUD found that almost all the housing assistance in the county was targeted toward existing homeowners and failed to fund programs for renters, who are more likely to be minorities.

HUD alleges that nonwhite households are under-represented in federally funded housing programs and majority-black jurisdictions are less likely to benefit from federally funded housing assistance. The complaint found the county wasn’t in compliance with civil rights requirements.

In a press release, Oakland County said it was “surprised, disappointed and appalled” that HUD was “attacking” the county and was engaging in “revisionist history” because it had already approved funding for the county and “until recently has failed to voice any objection to the County’s plans.”

“Oakland County’s programs do not have a disparate impact on African Americans,” wrote corporation counsel Keith J. Lerminiaux.

Segregation remains deeply entrenched, despite the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act 50 years ago. Some of the nation’s most diverse cities, including cities such as Detroit with large nonwhite populations, are among the most segregated.

In 2015, the Obama administration approved stringent guidance that gave communities a blueprint for addressing racial segregation aggressively — and threatened to deny them millions of federal dollars if they failed to do so. In January, the Trump administration suspended the rule. Some cities and counties are proceeding with their desegregation plans anyway.

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Teresa Wiltz

Teresa Wiltz covers welfare, housing and social services for Stateline. Previously, she worked for the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune.