Alabama Public Housing Put Whites in High-Rise Towers. Says Blacks ‘Prefer’ Substandard Garden Units, HUD Report Finds

Illustration for article titled Alabama Public Housing Put Whites in High-Rise Towers. Says Blacks ‘Prefer’ Substandard Garden Units, HUD Report Finds
Photo: Darrian Traynor (Getty Images)

Can America do literally anything without being racist about it? We already know that this great nation of ours can’t seem to police its citizens, distribute resources to communities, facilitate voting, or fund education in a way that focuses on racial equality, but one would think that something like providing subsidized housing for lower-income elderly people would be… Nah, never mind. That’s easily another thing that can’t be done without authorities making sure Black people get the short end of the stick.


According to a federal review, the public housing authority in Alabama provided white people with riverfront towers with scenic views and other amenities while Black people were given less luxurious housing. Their excuse? Black people don’t like high-rises.

Maybe they’ve never seen The Jeffersons.

The Associated Press reports that the housing authority in Alabama settled discrimination lawsuits for $200,000 which will be distributed to all of those who were given lower standard housing allegedly because of the color of their skin. This comes after a Housing and Urban Development study determined that 94 percent of the Decatur Housing Authority’s units in two towers with nice views and other perks were occupied by white tenants.

From AP:

The developments provide subsidized homes for low-income elderly people. Minorities on the waiting list to get into the towers were passed over as units there were filled with white people, the report said.

Authority workers repeatedly explained the lack of Black residents in the waterfront buildings by saying elderly Black tenants don’t like high-rise buildings and prefer living in “garden-style units so they can sit on their porch and come and go as they please,‘” according to a letter from HUD.

Aside from the fact that, in dog-whistle language, those “authority workers” basically called older Black people porch monkeys who are afraid of heights, the history of white people justifying racism through false claims that Black people naturally adapt to substandard conditions is too deep for anyone to be running with this kind of narrative in the year 2020.

Besides, according to the HUD investigation—which began when the Justice Department found “patterns of housing discrimination in Alabama and Mississippi,” AP reports—the discrepancy in housing conditions hardly stops at how long a tenant has to ride an elevator before reaching their apartment.

Residents of the two multistory buildings have access to a city park where events are held; walking trails; riverfront views; a library; meeting spaces; a mobile food pantry; a community kitchen and a patio, according to a letter from HUD. Westgate Gardens lacks similar amenities, it said.

Westgate tenant Carrie Garth, 76, said she welcomes promised improvements but will believe it when she sees it.

“Baseboards are coming loose from the floors. We have a problem with bugs. The buildings are old and they’re not kept up. I’ve been here nine years, and we don’t get a paint job or anything. My cabinet isn’t level so things roll off, and I’ve got a leak under the sink,” Garth said.


Along with the $200,000 settlement, housing authorities promised to upgrade the Westgate Gardens, which is largely occupied by Black residents, at an estimated cost of $1 million.

Seems like a lot of money could have been saved by not being racist in the first place, but whatever.


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Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons


Raineyb1013, Misfit Black Girl Island Denizen

$200,000 seems more than a bit low. There needs to be a couple of zeros added to it; this does not include the money spent on upgrading the building which should be extra.