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City of Palmdale agrees to resolve lawsuit and promote fair housing

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The City of Palmdale announced an agreement with city residents, The Community Action League and the California State Conference of the NAACP that will prevent discrimination in its community. The agreement was approved by the Palmdale City Council on Feb. 1 and settles a lawsuit filed in June 2011 on behalf of families who are part of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program and faced harassment and intimidation in Antelope Valley cities for many years. The action comes a week after Los Angeles County Supervisors voted on Tuesday, Jan. 24, to institute new protocols for Section 8 program investigators and Sheriff’s Department personnel.

Under the terms of the agreement:

- Palmdale will not seek any information as to which of its residents participate in the Section 8 program, thereby ensuring that no city employee can target Section 8 participants for discriminatory treatment.

- Palmdale will stop using limited city funds to pay for a dedicated Section 8 investigator in Palmdale, and instead will allow the County housing authority to take full responsibility for policing Section 8 compliance in the City.

- The plaintiffs will dismiss Palmdale from the lawsuit, leaving only the City of Lancaster to face claims of racial discrimination.

“By entering into this agreement, the City of Palmdale is affirming that it welcomes people of all backgrounds and from all walks of life, including those who rely on the Section 8 program for rental assistance,” said Jennifer del Castillo, an impact litigation attorney at Public Counsel. “Nothing in this agreement stops Palmdale from enforcing its laws and protecting its residents’ health and safety. The agreement simply says that Palmdale will treat Section 8 participants the same as everyone else. That is the essence of fair housing and fair governance.”

Today’s action means the lawsuit continues against the City of Lancaster. Lancaster’s mayor has characterized Section 8 families as being “dumped” on the city, and other officials have stated that the city’s goal is to reduce its Section 8 population by half. This runs counter to the purpose of the Section 8 program, which is to enable the participants to live in communities of their own choosing and to encourage economic and racial integration.

Plaintiffs are represented by Public Counsel, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, the NAACP Office of the General Counsel, civil rights attorney Gary Blasi, Bill Lann Lee of Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker, & Jackson, P.C., the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

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