Suit Alleges Housing Discrimination in Litchfield County
A lawsuit filed by the Connecticut Fair Housing Center alleges that a Litchfield County housing authority deliberately discriminates against blacks and Latinos. Crystal Carter had just moved back to Connecticut and was having trouble finding a place to live, bouncing around between family members and homeless shelters. When she saw that the Winchester Housing Authority was accepting applications for Section 8 housing vouchers, she gave it a call. The authority covers 17 towns. "When she indicated she was not residing within one of the 17 towns, she was told that she would not be allowed to apply." That's Timothy Bennett-Smyth, a staff attorney at the Connecticut Fair Housing Center representing Carter. He says residency requirements like that violate federal law. "And then she was told things like, well, there's not a bus line out here, there's no jobs out here, and Winchester is in the woods. And then she was instructed that she might be better off to apply to a Section 8 program in a place like Bridgeport or New Haven or Torrington Connecticut." Section 8 is a rental assistance program paid for by the federal government and administered locally. When reached by phone, a representative of the Winchester Housing Authority declined comment because the authority hadn't yet received notice of the complaint. Bennett-Smyth says the housing authority's efforts are a deliberate attempt to stop black and Latino families from renting in its communities -- where he says the population is overwhelmingly white. And the problem wasn't only Crystal Carter's. The housing center had other people call and ask for applications for Section 8, too. The suit alleges that those who said they weren't living in one of the 17 towns got the same treatment that Carter did -- and they weren't sent applications. "We do believe that these types of practices are occurring in other places and that's one of the reasons that I'm talking to you, frankly, is that I want people to know that this is going on and that this is a way in which segregation is being perpetuated in the 21st century." The suit was filed in federal court and will be heard in Bridgeport.