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HUD No. 21-117
HUD Public Affairs
(202) 708-0685
FOR RELEASE
Friday
July 30, 2021

HUD REACHES AGREEMENT WITH CALIFORNIA CITY SETTLING CLAIMS OF HOUSING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST FARMWORKERS


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has reached a Voluntary Compliance/Conciliation Agreement (VCA) with the City of Santa Maria, California, resolving allegations that the city’s enactment and enforcement of restrictions on housing for certain farmworker visa-holders in residential areas of the city violated the Fair Housing Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Section 109 of the Housing and Community Development Act. Read the agreement.

Pursuant to the VCA, the city agreed to immediately halt enforcement of the ordinance that created the restrictions, repeal the ordinance within 90 days, and refrain from enacting any similar restrictions. The ordinance imposed a discretionary conditional use permit requirement on housing for employees, which was directed at housing for H-2A foreign national farmworker visa-holders. The city also agreed to review fines imposed under the ordinance for potential refunds and hire an Employee Housing Resource Officer to receive and address complaints regarding discrimination and the quality and safety of occupied employee housing units going forward. Finally, the city agreed to undertake an effort to analyze and identify any other existing zoning laws that may be discriminatory, in violation of the Fair Housing Act and Title VI.

“Excluding residents from neighborhoods because of their race, color, or national origin violates fair housing laws,” said Jeanine Worden, HUD's Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “There is a long history of segregation and exclusion of agricultural workers in this country, and it is time it stopped. The Fair Housing Act is clear - jurisdictions may not zone people out of neighborhoods or towns based on their race, color, or national origin.”

The Department opened a compliance review regarding the restrictions under Title VI and Section 109 of the Housing and Community Development Act in April 2020. The Department filed a Secretary-Initiated Complaint on August 26, 2020, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act. The text and legislative history of the ordinance at issue make clear that the restrictions were directed solely at housing for certain farmworker visa-holders, over 90 percent of whom are from Mexico.

People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (Relay). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to hud.gov/fairhousing.

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