Antelope Valley housing fraud investigations pending amid charges of racism
Intimidating and harassing minority residents
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors went behind closed doors today to discuss funding for investigations into Section 8 housing fraud in Lancaster and Palmdale amid allegations of racial discrimination.
The county stopped funding for the probes in June, instituting a 90-day moratorium when allegations of racism were raised.
“We thought we had broken down the doors of segregation,” said Ron Hasson, president of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood branch of the NAACP, who today accused Antelope Valley officials of intimidating and harassing minority residents in Section 8 housing in effort to force them out of the community.
“This is not about fighting fraud and crime, despite what you will hear from city leaders,” he said, saying that Section 8 residents are three times more likely to be investigated in the Antelope Valley than in the rest of the county.
In August, the Justice Department started a civil rights probe into allegations made by the NAACP and other civil rights advocates that sheriff’s deputies were systematically harassing low-income Black and Latino residents of subsidized housing in the Antelope Valley.
The Rev. Henry W. Hearns Sr., a Black pastor who said he had served for 18 years on the Lancaster City Council, disagreed, told the Board of Supervisors today that he did not believe the Section 8 investigations were a question of racism but of uncovering fraud.
In a Aug. 10, The New York Times reported that civil rights groups were suing cities, claiming Blacks and Hispanics minorities were singled out for crimes or housing rules and expelled from public housing at higher rates than White tenants. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which ultimately funds the housing, is also investigating the claims.
The Los Angeles County Housing Authority, which is also subject to the DOJ probe, asked today for funding to continue its investigation for the next 12 months. Those investigations themselves should serve as “a deterrent to program fraud and other criminal activity,” according to the housing authority’s executive director Sean Rogan.
No mention of the DOJ or the litigation was mentioned in Rogan’s request, other than to note that the agreements to provide county investigators for the probe would include provisions that the county and cities indemnify one another.
About 17 percent of the county’s Section 8 tenants live in Lancaster and Palmdale.
Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Perris has suggested that the percentage is too high, given that the Antelope Valley represents only 4 percent of the county’s population. As fraud was uncovered and beneficiaries dropped from Section 8 rolls, Perris said, crime rates dropped.
The NAACP contends that Section 8 subsidies are terminated at a much higher rate in Antelope Valley, with 59 percent of the county’s terminations coming from the two cities.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who represents the Antelope Valley, has called the allegations of racism “absurd.” He points to the low rate of successful appeals of Section 8 terminations as evidence that investigators are truly identifying fraud.
About 200,000 eligible families and seniors are on a waiting list for Section 8 subsidies, according to Antonovich.
After listening to residents and community leaders on both sides, Antonovich indicated that the board would move behind closed doors to discuss the matter, which is typical of matters involving the potential for litigation.
Section 8 housing vouchers, which enable recipients to use the vouchers wherever they are accepted, were created under President Richard Nixon as a means of decentralizing public housing.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—An Antelope Valley community group sued Lancaster and Palmdale officials today, alleging the cities engaged in practices meant to drive out Black and Latino residents.
The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on behalf of the Community Action League, the California State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and two unidentified residents who allegedly faced racial discrimination.
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.
LANCASTER, Calif.—The Antelope Valley has experienced what some people would call community-shifting happenings, including the shooting death of two young people within a week of each other and two church arsons that have been speculated about as possible hate crimes.
ANTELOPE VALLEY - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is offering a $20,000 reward in hopes of tracking down whoever firebombed two churches in the Antelope Valley.
On Aug. 25, the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Palmdale and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lancaster were both the target of arson fires.
The Palmdale church at 18512 E. Avenue Q was completely destroyed, at a loss of $50,000, according to Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who proposed the reward.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The Southland again will bake in dry heat today, creating what the National Weather Service (NWS) called an “elevated fire danger” falling short of red flag conditions.
“A strong upper-level high-pressure system in combination with weak onshore flow near the surface brought record-breaking triple-digit heat to portions of the valleys and foothills on Sunday,” noted an NWS advisory.