Lawsuit Alleges Housing Discrimination in Northwestern CT


The Connecticut Fair Housing Center has filed a federal lawsuit against the Winchester Housing Authority alleging housing discrimination against Latinos and African-Americans.
The suit was filed because of the alleged discrimination of an African-American named Crystal Carter who, while living in a homeless shelter, found out about a waiting list for Section 8 housing in Winsted, a section of Winchester. The Connecticut Fair Housing Center (CFHC) said she was allegedly told by Winchester Housing Authority staff that she couldn’t apply because she did not live in the 17-town area the housing authority served, apparently in violation of federal law.
The housing authority staff also allegedly told Carter that Winchester was not on a bus line, that there were no jobs in Winchester, and that Winchester was “in the woods.” She was advised it would be better for her to apply to Section 8 programs in cities like Bridgeport, New Haven, or Torrington, according to a CFHC press release.
Attorney Timothy Bennett-Smyth said in the lawsuit he filed, “CFHC’s investigation confirmed that WHA utilizes an illegal residency requirement, precluding applicants from outside the overwhelmingly majority-White Rental Assistance Alliance from even applying to its Section 8 program.
“WHA’s illegal policy and practices preclude a disproportionate number of income-eligible minority households from receiving housing vouchers, solely because they do not already live in a Rental Assistance Alliance town. WHA thereby ensures that the towns in the Alliance remain disproportionately White and non-Hispanic.”
Winchester Housing Authority Executive Director Fred Newman could not be reached for comment. The housing authority’s website clearly states, “We are ONLY taking applications from residents of our rental assistance alliance at this time. All other application requests will not be given preference at this time.”
According to the suit, “The population of Winchester is overwhelmingly White, with very few African-Americans or Hispanics living there: according to the 2010 American Community Survey 5-year estimates, 94.5% of housing units in Winchester are occupied by White, non-Hispanic households, while only 4.5% are Hispanic. The number of housing units occupied by African-American households is so low it does not register above 0%.”
Bennett-Smyth added, “Unlawful residency preferences and requirements perpetuate segregation in Connecticut and, in a very direct way, prevent integration. Addressing this problem is central to the Connecticut Fair Housing Center’s mission of fostering open and inclusive communities and eliminating housing discrimination throughout Connecticut.”
The suit has been filed in U.S. District Court. The suit seeks monetary damages and housing accommodations for Carter.