The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the city of Hesperia, alleging it discriminated against black and Latino renters.
The lawsuit announced last week takes aim at a city ordinance that required landlords to evict tenants who had allegedly committed crimes on or near their property, but encompassed entire families, including children, for alleged criminal conduct involving one tenant or even non-tenants, and even included family members who had reported domestic violence to police.
The suit, which also names the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, alleged that enforcement targeted minorities and areas of the Mojave Desert city that had a majority population of blacks and Latinos.
The law involved allegations from authorities of criminal activity even if the person wasn’t arrested, charged or convicted.
Violation of Fair Housing Act
The suit alleges the city of 90,000 enacted the law–called the “Crime Free Rental Housing Program”–to drive minorities out of the city and violated the federal Fair Housing Act.
Officials with the city and sheriff’s department did not immediately respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment.
The lawsuit is based on allegations made by the Department of Housing and Urban Development against the city last month. HUD alleged that at some 140 households lost housing because of the ordinance in 2016.
HUD found that African American renters were nearly four times as likely and Latino renters 29% more likely than white renters to be evicted under the ordinance.
“The Fair Housing Act prohibits local governments from enacting ordinances intended to push out African American and Latino renters because of their race and national origin, or from enforcing their ordinances in a discriminatory manner,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in a statement.