Michelle Ross moved her family to the north Los Angeles County city of Palmdale in 2009 hoping to put her children in an environment where she no longer had to worry about crime. She was welcomed by her neighbors when she first arrived. But when the neighbors found out that Ross was a participant in the federal Section 8 housing voucher program, she found herself with new worries. She became the target of bullying and harassment—not just from neighborhood residents, but from the police as well.
What Ross did not know was that Palmdale elected officials had colluded with the L.A. county’s housing authority and sheriff’s department to scare African-American families in the voucher program out of the city. So says a Fair Housing Act complaint filed on July 20 by the U.S. Department of Justice against the county and Palmdale, which was settled the same day. The complaint and settlement also involve the neighboring city of Lancaster, which was accused of employing the same discriminatory tactics.