In May, 2014 HOPE reached a settlement with the Aurora Housing Authority (AHA) in the wake of a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) it entered into with HUD as a result of HOPE’s 2013 complaint. HOPE filed its complaint after the AHA’s decision not to redevelop the Jericho Circle complex. The complex of 145 apartments, which comprised nearly 22% of the public housing available in Aurora, was to be demolished in 2010 with the promise that residents’ homes would be rebuilt as part of a mixed-income development. After demolition, the primarily African American residents of Jericho Circle, including many families with children, were told that their housing would not be rebuilt. Rather, the AHA would be developing 30 scattered-site homes with preference given to seniors, veterans, and persons with disabilities.
Prior to demolition, HOPE had educated the City of Aurora and the AHA about their duty to “affirmatively further fair housing” – a requirement of all communities that receive federal funds for housing - and that failing to redevelop Jericho Circle would be in violation of this requirement. The AHA filed a complaint against the City of Aurora. The Mayor responded by replacing AHA Board members, who then decided not to redevelop Jericho Circle. The AHA did not pursue its complaint against Aurora. Instead, HOPE filed its complaint. In addition, two former Jericho Circle residents, Tonya Hayes and Shirley Fraction, represented by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, filed complaints with HUD alleging that AHA’s actions in relocating residents, demolishing Jericho Circle, and failing to redevelop the site as promised, discriminated against former residents based on their race, color, and/or familial status.
HUD conducted an 8-month investigation that showed, in part, that only 2% of households on the AHA’s waiting list sought senior housing and 11% had a family member with a disability. On the other hand, 55% of the households on the waiting list were African American. By not redeveloping Jericho Circle to include former residents, HUD found the AHA in violation of federal civil rights and fair housing laws, specifically Title VI of the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 and the duty to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing [AFFH]. This was the first time that HUD found an AFFH violation based on a public housing authority’s failure to redevelop housing.
HUD’s VCA included an agreement to build at least 100 new affordable housing units in Aurora in accordance with HUD’s site selection standards and that 11% of the units will be accessible for persons with disabilities. The AHA agreed to give first right to occupy these units to former Jericho Circle residents displaced due to the demolition. Each AHA Board Commissioner and the Executive Director will complete fair housing training and pay modest damages to the former residents and HOPE, and reimburse Shriver Center attorney fees.