RIDGELAND, Miss. (WJTV) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has reached an agreement to settle discriminatory zoning complaints with the City of Ridgeland.
HUD said they filed a fair housing complaint against the city in December 2015 after their office received reports that some apartment complexes faced possible demolition after the city instituted a new zoning requirement that lowered the allowable density.
WJTV first reported on the story in February. A lawyer for one of the complexes said the city was working to completely shut down some apartments in southeast Ridgeland and the people who live there will be left without a place to stay. HUD reviewed the reports where residents claimed that city officials were trying to rezone the city to kick the bulk of the minority population out of town.
HUD complained that the city’s new zoning ordinance did call for several apartment complexes with the highest minority populations to be torn down.
“While zoning is the primary responsibility of local government, it cannot be used as a vehicle for discriminating against minority families through a campaign of depopulation,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Everyone, regardless of their race, should have the opportunity to live where they choose, and HUD will continue to take appropriate action when that right is violated.”
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for cities to create housing ordinances that discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.
Ridgeland has now agreed to amend the 2014 Ordinance so that multifamily properties are treated as they were before the Ordinance.The city also agreed to submit to HUD a proposed Affordable and Fair Housing Marketing Plan. The proposal is to encourage mixed-income communities and to include Southeastern Ridgeland residents in the community planning process.
HUD said any person who believes he or she has experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 or (800) 927-9275. You can also file housing discrimination complaints online.
Below is the full statement that the City of Ridgeland’s Community Affairs Coordinator released about the Conciliation Agreement:
The City of Ridgeland is pleased to announce that the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has ended its investigation of the City related to the 2014 Zoning Ordinance and that the matter has been amicably resolved. In its zoning actions, the City sought to ensure and improve the health, safety and welfare of its citizens, regardless of race, including the citizens of the affected apartment complexes. The City remains committed to that goal. Many of the requirements in the Conciliation Agreement voluntarily entered into by the City were already the practice of the City. Only the Madison County Circuit Court has issued rulings with regard to the zoning ordinance, and in all five cases, the Court ruled in favor of the City, finding its actions legal and constitutional. Resolution with HUD allows the City to continue to move forward with its goal of improving the health, safety and welfare of all of its citizens. Under the agreement, the density requirement will remain in effect and the mixed use zoning that affects six apartment complexes will remain in place but their nonconformities will be grandfathered.