Oakland County accused of 'discriminatory' housing policy

Posted at 4:08 PM, Jun 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-15 18:12:44-04

Oakland County officials are facing criticism after the Department of Housing and Urban Development wrote a letter stating their housing policies are discriminatory. Officials received the complaint in April and have until July 1 to refute those claims.

“We were surprised and appalled,” said Oakland County Corporation Council Keith Lerminiaux.

The 20 page letter concentrates on two programs, Community Development Block Grants and The HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which Oakland County receives $7 million annually.  HUD specifically states the program favors homeowners over renters, negatively affecting the funds distributed to six cities in Oakland County: Pontiac, Southfield, Royal Oak Township, Oak Park and Lathrup Village. 

“We’ve been a good partner with HUD for 45 years and we have the documentation going back that long demonstrating everything we did was approved,” Lerminiaux said. 

HUD writes, “By not funding housing assistance program that benefit renters, the county is excluding non white households from participating in HUD-funded housing programs.”

But Lerminiaux said that is the way HUD designed the program

“Our CDBG expenditures are consistent with the law for the most part,” Lerminiaux said. “Although HUD wants us to use our CDBG funds for rental assistance, they can’t be used for rental assistance. The law says to use our home expenditures for home improvement. That’s what we're doing.”

Ahmad Taylor with Pontiac Housing Commission, one of the cities named in the letter, said the biggest take away is that county funds are not being put in the areas of Oakland County that need them most. 

“If we have resources that can help, the individual that needs the most help, those resources need to be applied properly,” Taylor said. “That’s the intent of the federal program for HUD. Not to play games with these resources and apply them in areas where they are really not needed.”

Taylor said getting more input from city officials over county officials would help this. 

“I think what’s important is that we have a seat at the table in the terms of the planning processes moving forward,” Taylor said. 

Lerminiaux said what is most shocking about the letter is that each year the county has to submit a budget of how that HUD money will be spent. HUD then must approve that budget before giving the money. The years that HUD is claiming Oakland County was discriminatory, HUD officials approved that budget beforehand. 

“What we basically have is federal bureaucracy run amuck,” Lerminiaux said. “We have one department of HUD, FHEO, questioning what’s already been approved by another department of HUD. For those reasons we are surprized and appalled,” Lerminaux said. 

Read the county’s full response to HUD’s letter here. 

HUD Response to Bethany Moore%2c WXYZ News 061518 by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd