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City, HUD Settle Public Housing Desegregation Plan

June 17, 1988

BOSTON (AP) _ City officials reached an agreement Thursday with federal housing officials to desegregate about 17,000 public housing units in 69 developments operated by the Boston Housing Authority.

″This agreement is designed to ensure fair and equal access for public housing throughout Boston,″ said Mayor Raymond Flynn. ″It is intended to keep decision-making at the local level and away from a federal court.″

The agreement between Flynn, the BHA and the federal department of Housing and Urban Development follows an October 1987 HUD report that found a pattern of keeping white housing projects white and isolating blacks and other minorities in projects where their own race predominated.

The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, which is handling the suit for the NAACP, contends some of the victims of discrimination deserve monetary damages as well as immediate housing, said attorney Alan Rom.

″However much may have been remedied by that plan, there’s still plenty left over,″ Rom said.

The Flynn administration has been pressured by a lawsuit by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to stop discriminatory housing practices.

A key feature of the agreement is for the housing authority to identify people who have been victims of discriminatory public housing practices and put them near the top of the priority housing list behind only emergency cases involving families on the verge of homelessness.

Anyone passed over because of race or national origin since Oct. 1, 1983, would be considered such a victim.

Flynn emphasized that no current resident of public housing will be forced to move as a result of the agreement.

Boston’s is the largest housing authority in the country to enter into an agreement to voluntarily comply with fair public housing practices, according to Robert LaPlante, HUD’s regional director for fair housing.

″This is a document that is as fair as it gets,″ said Doris Bunte, administrator of the Boston Housing Authority.

Once discrimination victims have been identified and placed in housing, the city will invoke a new tenant placement system, subject to later approval by HUD.

Under the new system, the BHA would ask the roughly 13,500 applicants on the city waiting list to choose between a city-wide list of available apartments or a site-specific development list.

City-wide applicants would receive faster placement under the new system. If HUD rejects that system, the BHA would have to use a HUD-developed plan in which there an applicant could not specify a housing development.