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Project BASIC

July/August 1999 issue of Poverty & Race

Project BASIC
c/o RI Legal Services
56 Pine St., #4
Providence, RI 02903
401/274-2652
Contact: Steven Fishbach

In 1991, Project BASIC settled its lawsuit challenging the demolition of 240 units at Providence’s Hartford Park public housing project. The settlement was aided by a PRRAC-funded research paper by planning consultant Yale Rabin, which documented the failure of the Providence Housing Authority (PHA) and HUD to meet Fair Housing Act and Civil Rights Act standards, and proposed remedies. Two separate consent decrees were entered: one with HUD and PHA, the other with the City of Providence (“City”).

The consent decree with HUD and the PHA required the PHA to build and HUD to fund 240 replacement units, of which 109 were to be located outside “areas of minority concentration.” The consent decree defined the term “areas of minority concentration” to include census tracts containing a higher proportion of racial minorities than the city-wide average, using 1990 Census data. According to the 1990 Census, minorities comprised approximately 30% of the city’s population. The consent decree also prohibited the siting of units in two census tracts not technically minority-concentrated, but having a large number of federally-assisted housing units. In 1993, the consent decree was modified to permit construction of up to 13 of the 109 units in census tracts that would not have been permissible under the 1991 consent decree. However, the PHA was obligated to apply for and HUD to fund additional units to compensate for the loss of part of the 109 units that were to be built in white areas under the 1991 decree.

The PHA completed the 240 replacement units by the end of 1998, four years behind the schedule set forth in the 1991 consent decree. Only 7 of the 13 units referenced in the 1993 consent decree were built, and the PHA has not applied to HUD for 7 new units as required by the 1993 decree. Moreover, the PHA has sold off some of the 240 replacement units, and was required by the 1991 consent decree to apply for more public housing units to replace any of the 240 units sold in the future. The PHA has not applied for those additional units either.

The consent decree with the City required the City to undertake fair housing assessments of applications for financial assistance for developing low-income housing or facilities for the homeless. The City did not keep Project BASIC informed of applications received, and no fair housing assessments have been performed. The consent decree also required the City to use federal, state and local housing assistance to increase the number of minority households receiving such assistance in predominantly white areas of the city. To that end, Project BASIC worked with the City and area banks to create a first-time homebuyer program whereby 30% of the funds were set aside for minority borrowers to purchase homes in white neighborhoods. Finally, the City was to have engaged Project BASIC as a partner in the development of the City’s Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (now the Consolidated Plan). The City has not consistently abided by these provisions of the consent decree. Moreover, the City has not submitted to HUD an acceptable Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing, an integral component of the Consolidated Plan. HUD rejected the Analysis of Impediments submitted by the City in 1997, as the Analysis stated there were no impediments to fair housing in Providence. Project BASIC continues its work to force the City to develop a complete and accurate Analysis of Impediments.

Notes:

A copy of Yale Rabin’s 16-page Declaration is available from PRRAC with a SASE (78˘).

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