The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has reached an agreement with Huntsville Utilities in Huntsville, Ala., over charges that the utility discriminated against prospective customers based on national origin.
According to HUD, Huntsville Utilities required Hispanic applicants to apply for residential utility service in person, while non-Hispanic applicants had the option of applying in person or online. In addition, the utility's application required individuals requesting residential service to provide their Social Security number.
Under the settlement agreement, which will be in effect for three years, Huntsville Utilities will adopt a non-discriminatory service policy, develop and publish a list of alternative eligibility or identification documents that do not rely solely on Social Security numbers and clarify which identity documents are required to qualify for service.
The utility will also develop plans to market its services to prospective customers with limited English proficiency and to provide translation services where needed, and it will donate $5,000 to a local Alabama non-profit organization that serves the Hispanic community. HUD adds that the settlement agreement is ‘not an admission by Huntsville Utilities of any violation of the Fair Housing Act.’
‘Equal access to utility services is fundamental to fair housing,’ says John Trasvina, HUD's assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity. ‘We are pleased that Huntsville Utilities is now working with HUD to remove any unnecessary barriers.’