Neighbors harassed a white woman and her Black boyfriend in Cushing for their biracial relationship, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the federal agency says the apartment complex where they were living broke the law when it didn’t take their complaints seriously and then evicted them in retaliation for reporting the abuse.
HUD said it found Cimarron Tower out of compliance with the Fair Housing Act. The current management company said the violations occurred in 2016, before it took over, and that it has cooperated with HUD’s investigation and would continue to do so.
Cimarron Tower provides apartments for the elderly and disabled. It receives federal funding including Section 8 rental assistance.
HUD said it would “seek remedial relief for the complainants and public interest relief through changes to policies and procedures” a voluntary compliance agreement “to make the complainant whole and eliminate discriminatory practices.”
Whatever HUD wants, management will do, said Jimmy Arnold, owner of Arnold-Grounds Apartment Management in Grapevine, Texas. He said he already provides annual training on fair housing. Title VII of the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, familial status, or handicap in multifamily housing rental.
Arnold said he is worried the retelling of the abuse will make it harder for the nonprofit owner of the property, Cushing Housing Inc., to attract volunteer, unpaid directors. He said the board has turned over twice since the incidents took place, and that no one who was involved with Cimarron Tower in 2017 is still with the property or nonprofit.
Oklahoma Property Management Inc., which managed the property at the time, went out of business shortly after HUD determined it couldn’t deal with the need for repairs to the building after an earthquake, Arnold said.
The case will continue with a teleconference Nov. 18, he said.
“Bigotry and racial discrimination have no place in housing. It is inexcusable for a HUD-funded housing provider to discriminate and retaliate against its tenants while denying them the ability to peacefully enjoy their housing” said Demetria L. McCain, HUD’s principal deputy secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity.
Cimarron Tower, with 46 units, is an Art Deco landmark in Cushing dating to around 1930 when it opened as Hotel Cushing. Arnold said it was converted to apartments in 1981.
HUD said the case started when a mother and her daughter filed a complaint of discrimination due to the race of the daughter’s boyfriend.
HUD summarized the case:
“When the daughter, who is white, was seen dating a man who is Black, the complainants became the target of severe and pervasive racial harassment from other tenants on the property. The complainants were repeatedly called racial slurs by other tenants and were threatened with racially motivated violence.
“HUD’s investigation found that complainants repeatedly notified Cushing Housing and (the previous management company) of the racial harassment, but the recipients failed to adequately address the harassment. When Cushing Housing and (management) responded, it was in the form of a notice to vacate to both the complainant mother as well as the harassers. HUD’s investigation thus revealed that the complainant mother was also unlawfully retaliated against for her efforts to have the harassment addressed.”
People who believe they have discriminated against may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (Relay).
Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to hud.gov/fairhousing.
For more information about fair lending under the Fair Housing Act, go to https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/fair_lending.
Senior Business Writer Richard Mize has covered housing, construction, commercial real estate and related topics for the newspaper and Oklahoman.com since 1999. Contact him at email@example.com. Sign up for his weekly newsletter, Real Estate with Richard Mize.