May 27, 2020
City of Hesperia, sheriff’s department sued over rental ordinance
LOS ANGELES – (INT) -The Justice Department Monday filed a lawsuit alleging that the City of Hesperia and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department discriminated against African American and Latino renters in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Hesperia contracts with the sheriff’s department for law enforcement.

The federal lawsuit alleges that the city, with substantial support from the Sheriff’s Department, enacted a rental ordinance with the intent of addressing what one city councilmember called a “demographical problem” – the city’s increasing African American and Latino population. The ordinance resulted in the evictions of numerous African American and Latino renters.

The “Crime Free Rental Housing” ordinance, which was in effect between January 1, 2016 and its amendment on July 18, 2017, required all rental property owners to evict tenants upon notice by the Sheriff’s Department that the tenants had engaged in any alleged criminal activity on or near the property. The complaint further alleges that the Sheriff’s Department exercised its substantial discretion in enforcement to target African American and Latino renters and majority-minority areas of Hesperia.

Although the ordinance purported to target “criminal activity,” the Sheriff’s Department notified landlords to begin evictions of entire families – including children – for conduct involving one tenant or even non-tenants, evictions of victims of domestic violence, and evictions based on mere allegations and without evidence of criminal activity, United States Attorney Nick Hanna said.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit is based on an investigation and charge of discrimination by HUD, which found that African American and Latino renters were significantly more likely to be evicted under the ordinance than white renters, and that evictions disproportionately occurred in majority-minority parts of Hesperia. According to the complaint, HUD determined that African American renters were almost four times as likely as non-Hispanic white renters to be evicted because of the ordinance, and Latino renters were 29 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white renters to be evicted.

Sheriff’s Department data showed that 96 percent of the people the Sheriff’s Department targeted for eviction under the ordinance in 2016 had lived in majority-minority Census blocks. HUD determined that reasonable cause existed to believe the city and county engaged in illegal discriminatory housing practices.

“Individuals and families have a right to live where they choose, regardless of their race or national origin,” said Anna María Farías, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). “HUD applauds today’s action and will continue to work with the Justice Department to address policies and practices that violate this nation’s fair housing laws.”

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