ANNOUNCED: A Complaint Challenges Oakland County, Michigan Housing Policies, Alleging That Expenditures Discriminated Against African American and Latino Households

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On May 15, 2015, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) filed an administrative complaint against Oakland County, Michigan with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on behalf of the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit (FHC). The FHC was founded in 1977 to address fair housing issues in the metropolitan Detroit area and to assure equal access to housing without discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, color, religion, national origin, familial, marital, sexual orientation, or disability status. Oakland County is a large suburban jurisdiction located to the north and northwest of the City of Detroit, Michigan, and comprises a large portion of one of the most segregated metropolitan regions in the United States.
The complaint alleges that the County has violated the Fair Housing Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Section 109 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 by spending its federal housing and community development funds in a manner that has a discriminatory effect on African American and Latino households and that also perpetuated residential racial segregation. Oakland County receives federal housing and community development funds, and the County’s planning and reporting documents show that the County has prioritized financial support for existing homeowners and non-housing community development needs to the near exclusion of assistance for affordable rental housing. African American and Latino households in the region are more likely to rent their homes and to need affordable housing than are non-Latino white households. Additionally, devoting resources to rental housing is more likely to promote the kind of household mobility that is necessary to break down entrenched patterns of residential racial segregation in the County and in the region.

“Federal housing programs have the transformative potential to expand access to opportunity, but Oakland County’s use of taxpayer dollars has reinforced the discriminatory status quo,” said Joseph D. Rich, Co-Director of the Fair Housing & Community Development Project at the Lawyers’ Committee.