A consultant with the House of Pride has filed a fair housing complaint against the city of Dover.
A consultant to the House of Pride’s executive board has filed a discrimination complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, alleging the city of Dover has illegally worked to limit housing opportunities for African-Americans. La Mar T. Gunn, a nephew of House of Pride founder Marian Harris, filed the online complaint Nov. 7 with the backing of HOP Executive Director Bishop Marion L. Lott. A representative from the Dover City Clerk’s office said that as of press time neither her office nor City Manager Scott Koenig had received an official notification of the complaint from HUD. Gunn said he filed the complaint because while much of the country has made forward progress in solidifying the right to fair and equal housing over the past few decades, that has not been the case in Dover. “This city has gone backward,” he said. “The African-American community here is worse off than it was in the 1980s. “The city has gone about in a very methodical way to separate access to fair housing,” Gunn added. “I’m the guy who is blowing the whistle on this.” Koenig, City Council President David Bonar and city Director of Planning and Community Development Ann Marie Townshend were specifically singled out in the complaint. Part of Gunn’s action was based on City Council’s Sept. 9 decision that ordered the HOP to vacate three properties that city inspectors said did not meet minimum building code requirements. Those properties also would need a certificate of occupation before people could be allowed to move back in. The HOP appealed the vacation order to the Construction Code Appeals Committee, which met Nov. 6 and decided to uphold Townshend’s decision to shut down the buildings until they could be verified as safe. In his HUD filing, Gunn accused city officials of longstanding systemic discrimination, which they perpetuated by rescinding rental permits and occupancy certificates in areas with high African-American populations. Specifically, Gunn said Koenig and Townshend are fomenting a “methodical plan to place liens against African-American landowners and forcing landowners out of the area.” In addition, Gunn claimed that documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act indicate city officials have knowingly made false statements to HUD to obtain Community Development Block Grant funds and have used the city’s building code to limit access to housing by black residents in the city’s predominantly African-American Fourth District. Townshend said she also has not received the official complaint and cannot comment on it until doing so. Speaking for Lott and HOP Property Manager Shirley Davis, Gunn claimed they have been subjected to “egregious acts of racial and ethnic segregation” through enforcement of city ordinances that limit access to affordable housing. Challenges to city decisions have been met with retaliation in the form of “police brutality, hate crimes and other unlawful activity” against Dover’s black community, he said. Under HUD rules, the agency must notify the city about the complaint. It then is assessed by an intake analyst to determine whether the department has jurisdiction to investigate the case under the Fair Housing Act, said HUD spokeswoman Lisa A. Wolfe. “If the intake analyst determines the department has the legal authority to investigate the complaint, it will be assigned to an investigator,” she added. Normally, HUD has 100 days to complete an investigation after receiving a complaint.