- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 29, 2015

RIDGELAND, Miss. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says Ridgeland officials are engaging in “unlawful discrimination based on race.”

The Mississippi Business Journal reports (https://bit.ly/1QW5Or2 ) that the subject is a 2014 zoning law aimed at reducing density of multi-family apartment units. HUD’s notice to Ridgeland officials does not specifically threaten to cut off funding, but notes that the city received nearly $5 million in federal money in 2014.

One Jackson attorney involved in challenging the zoning law said HUD could freeze Community Development Block Grants. HUD’s other options include suing through the Department of Justice, or seeking a consent decree to ease the stringent rules in the 2014 zoning ordinance.

Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee and Development Director Alan Hart declined comment Monday, citing a policy of not discussing matters under litigation.

Ridgeland has been hit with more than a dozen lawsuits by lawyers representing 15 rental complexes. The majority of the suits are in Madison-Rankin Circuit Court and charge the 2014 zoning law and its density caps violate property rights protected in both the state and federal constitutions.

Three of the legal complaints have been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. They allege violations of the Fair Housing Act and claim the housing policies seek removal of blacks and Hispanics.

The most recent suit claimed a land-use strategy to establish segregated housing and lower the number of minority students in Ridgeland’s public schools is behind the City’s effort to displace about 4,770 residents who live in apartment complexes around the city.

HUD has asked attorneys involved in the federal suits to provide information to help the agency find whether civil rights violations have occurred.

Ridgeland’s Board of Aldermen and planning officials have said the 2014 zoning ordinance outlawing current apartment complex unit densities is rooted in a desire to enhance land-use standards. The measure further seeks to free taxpayers from a burden multi-family rental units put on infrastructure and services, city officials have said, according to the Business Journal.


Information from: Mississippi Business Journal, https://www.msbusiness.com

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