FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GROUP OF PLAINTIFFS SUE THE CITY OF ANNAPOLIS FOR RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AFTER IT REFUSES TO INSPECT OR ENFORCE ITS RENTAL LICENSING REQUIREMENTS AT THE CITY’S PUBLIC HOUSING PROPERTIES, WHICH ARE PREDOMINANTLY RENTED BY LOW-INCOME, AFRICAN AMERICAN RESIDENTS
ANNAPOLIS, Md., (May 21, 2019) – The law firm of Wise & Donahue, PLC has filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division (Case No. 1:19-cv-1442) against the City of Annapolis and the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis (“HACA”) for violating the civil rights of its more than 1,600 predominantly African American residents of public housing in Annapolis.
Most residents of Annapolis are unaware of the City’s long history of disenfranchisement and systematic segregation of its African American residents. The City’s urban renewal policies of the 1960s destroyed the vibrant African American community then located in the Old 4th Ward of Annapolis. The City’s policies led to the scattering of hundreds of African American families to various public housing developments in hidden portions of the City and the shuttering of at least thirty-three African American-owned and operated businesses. These families have never recovered, and many of those affected, along with their descendants, still live in the same transplanted and rapidly dilapidating homes a half-century later.
After numerous tenants residing in Annapolis rental properties owned and managed by HACA complained of life-threatening conditions at their apartments – including indoor sewage leaks, fire code violations, and the confirmed presence of toxic mold in numerous apartments – it was discovered that none of the City’s 790 public housing rental properties are held to the same health and safety standards to which the City holds all other rental properties in Annapolis. None of the City’s public housing properties are licensed for rental, and the City of Annapolis has decided to neither inspect nor license the HACA properties, in blatant violation of the City Code. The resulting impact is a violation of the United States Constitution. As a result, most units never receive any type of inspection at all, resulting in unsanitary and dangerous living conditions for the majority African American residents living in the properties. Indeed, in 2018, the late-Speaker Mike Busch said of HACA properties at Newtowne Twenty: “I don’t really know how people live in that housing. It is by far in my estimation the greatest challenge in the county.”
The discrimination in housing conditions greatly affects numerous other vital interests of the City, not the least being the City’s public schools, where hundreds of children from these developments seek education. Annapolis is our State’s Capital, and these Annapolitans deserve better. This case presents the City of Annapolis, the County, and the State, with an opportunity to right the wrongs that have been historically committed and to set sail on a new course of inclusion and hope for these alienated residents of Annapolis. By ensuring that our Nation’s fair housing laws are followed, we can take affirmative steps toward advancing benefits for all of the City’s residents.
To read the Amended Complaint, click here.
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