Ridgeland officials are engaging in “unlawful discrimination based on race,” the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development alleges in an administrative complaint that addresses Ridgeland’s campaign to dramatically reduce multi-family rental units in the city.

HUD made no specific warning that consequences of enforcing a 2014 zoning law could include a cut off of Ridgeland’s federal funding. However, its notice to Ridgeland noted the City received nearly $5 million in federal money in 2014.

The HUD notice says the agency has 100 days to make final conclusions on whether violations of the 1968 Civil Rights Act and the 1988 Fair Housing Act have occurred. “This is an ongoing investigation and HUD is intent upon moving swiftly to conclusion,” HUD says.

One Jackson attorney involved in challenging the zoning law said HUD could freeze Community Development Block Grants, initiate a civil lawsuit through the Department of Justice, or seek to gain a consent decree to ease the stringent land-use and building density rules in the 2014 zoning ordinance, the first revamp of Ridgeland zoning since 1999.

HUD gained significant enforcement latitude in June with a major U.S. Supreme court ruling in a Texas case that said the agency did not have to prove “intent” to prevail in Fair Housing Act cases. HUD, the court said, can use statistics to show that the challenged practice had produced a “disparate impact.”

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