HAMMOND | The Hammond Housing Authority and the city of Hammond will pay $200,000 to the housing authority's former executive director, Maria Becerra, to settle allegations that she was wrongfully fired.
Becerra filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in March 2012, saying she was terminated from her position because she used a federally funded rental assistance program, called the Housing Choice Voucher program, to help minority families move into predominantly white neighborhoods.
Under the Fair Housing Act, discriminating in housing because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status is illegal. It is also illegal to retaliate against someone for supporting the housing rights of others.
"HUD's Housing Choice Voucher program is designed to help lower-income families find housing in safe neighborhoods and climb the ladder of social and economic opportunity," said Bryan Green, HUD's acting assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity.
"We're pleased that, under this agreement, the HHA commits itself to implement this program in a fair manner and provide greater housing choices for families of all backgrounds."
Under the terms of the agreement, city and HHA staff and board members will receive fair housing training, the mayor of Hammond will issue a public statement in support of housing choice vouchers and the program in Hammond, and HHA will use 97 percent of its annual housing choice voucher budget each year.
Becerra and the city did not respond to The Times' request for comment on the settlement.