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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Justice Department’s Fair Housing Suit Against Village Moves Forward

In 2015, a developer submitted plans to the village of Tinley Park proposing to build 47 apartments in a three-story building.  The project was known as the Reserve. The apartment complex would be marketed to people making less than 60 percent of the area median income, and the developer planned to finance the project through the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.    

Originally, the village's planning department determined that the Reserve project met the legal requirements under a special community development plan ordinance alleviating the need for approval by the village board to secure permits. However, shortly after the plans for the Reserve became public, opposition grew from the village residents and the village board sent the project’s plans back to the planning department for review.  The developer eventually sued the village, and the case was resolved when the village agreed to a $2.75 million settlement without any admission of wrongful conduct on the village's part. 

The Justice Department subsequently filed a lawsuit against the village, alleging that the village engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination and denied rights to a group of persons on the basis of race and color in violation of the Fair Housing Act in connection with the Reserve project.  Specifically, the federal lawsuit stated that “Community opposition to the Reserve was based on discriminatory attitudes towards African Americans and other groups based on race.”  

The village filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the Justice Department didn’t have authority to file suit under the Fair Housing Act. The village argued that because the office of the FHA was vacant at the time the suit was filed, the Principal Deputy Attorney General Civil Rights Division had no authority to bring the action. The federal judge rejected the village’s argument and sided with the Justice Department, noting that the suit was brought by the highest ranking official in the Civil Rights Division at the time.  According to the ruling, Congress had never suggested its intent to limit the delegation of authority to subordinates and therefore the functions governed by the statute can be delegated.

We will certainly keep an eye on this case as it moves forward.

Post Authored by Megan Mack, Ancel Glink


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