After months of contentious dispute over whether the city of Lancaster was discriminating against minority residents who receive public housing assistance, city officials and civil rights groups have reached an official agreement. The NAACP and the Community Action League have dropped a lawsuit alleging that the city was harassing black and Latino residents holding Section 8 vouchers in an effort to drive them out. In exchange, Lancaster officials have agreed to make it clear that the city does not condone discrimination against Section 8 renters, most of whom are black and Latino. A community working group of city officials and civil rights representatives will be formed to review Lancaster ordinances that might adversely affect either residents on public housing or the landlords who rent to them.
This agreement is a good starting point for the community, which has been caught up in the bitter debate over the Section 8 controversy. (Just read the comments on local Lancaster media websites.) Even more promising is that Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris, the chief spokesman for the notion that the city was overburdened by Section 8 renters, said he wanted to work with civil rights groups on housing and apologized for not reaching out to them sooner. At a news conference, Parris literally wrapped his arms around civil rights leaders.