Winder facing $490,000 in discrimination penalties

WINDER - The city of Winder's Housing Authority may have to pay up to $490,000 to settle claims it discriminated against black tenants and housing applicants, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday.

According to the settlement, which must still be approved by the courts, the Housing Authority must establish a $450,000 fund to compensate people who suffered damages as the result of its alleged discrimination. It must also pay a $40,000 civil penalty to the United States, a news release states.

The complaint, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court in Gainesville in conjunction with the settlement, claims the Housing Authority maintained racially segregated housing by assigning applicants to vacant units based on race and subjected black tenants to inferior terms and conditions of rental.

The settlement will also require the Housing Authority to implement nondiscriminatory policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act and to provide employee training on the policies, procedures and the Act, the news release states.

"Every person, including individuals who seek public assistance, has a right to be free from racial discrimination in housing," said Grace Chung Becker, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "The department will continue its vigorous enforcement of the Fair Housing Act."

The public Housing Authority maintains nine complexes in Winder, Statham and Braselton and provides housing for people of low income.