No place for housing prejudice

Published 9:40 pm Monday, February 7, 2011

It was good to see the case about racial discrimination at a local apartment complex come to a close, even if it was a vague one.

The owner of Rolling Oaks Apartments in Clanton and two employees were ordered to pay a penalty of $15,500 plus other concessions after a settlement was reached with the U.S. Department of Justice in a case of an alleged violation of the Fair Housing Act.

But the settlement did not include an admission of guilt by the defendants.

Still, the case highlights an important point: There’s no place for racial discrimination in Clanton, or anywhere for that matter.

The defendants were charged with telling white testers posing as renters that a selling point of the complex was the lack of black tenants and that Rolling Oaks had adopted rental policies, such as a background check, intended to discourage black applicants.

We agree with Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the DoJ’s Civil Rights Division, that “when housing providers make race a part of their sales pitch, they create an atmosphere of intolerance and they violate the law.”

In addition to the monetary penalty, the owner of Rolling Oaks must also develop and apply a nondiscrimination policy and provide rental managers with training on the Fair Housing Act.

These steps would be a good idea for any housing providers to take—and even if they aren’t legally required to do so.