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ACLU sues Minnesota city for racial discrimination against black renters

Argues that city's Crime Free Housing Program is discriminatory towards minorities

The ACLU is suing the city of Faribault, Minnesota over its Crime-Free Housing Program, which the ACLU claims is racially discriminatory.

After Faribault community members expressed fear that Somali residents–a growing contingency in Faribault’s demographic makeup–were engaging in crime, Faribault put this ordinance in place, according to the ACLU.

The Crime-Free Housing Program allows police to order the eviction of all members of a household if any member or guest is thought to be engaging in criminal behavior. The police can order these evictions without arrest or prosecution, and they can stand even if the person in question is found not guilty.

Additionally, the program asks landlords to refuse potential tenants with a criminal history.

The ACLU holds that the Crime-Free Housing Program is in violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

“To quell its discriminatory and misplaced fear of black people, especially Somali immigrants, the city enacted this ordinance aimed at pushing them out of the community,” ACLU’s Racial Justice Program Staff Attorney Rachel Goodman said in an article on ACLU Minnesota’s website.

“Depriving someone of a home because of where they come from or what they look like is illegal and unconstitutional. This country was founded on the ideals of equality and opportunity, and Faribault’s ordinance undermines those ideals,” she continued.

The ordinance also limits the number of people who can live in a rental unit, which affects Somali families who typically have five or more children. For some families, having another child can put them over the limit and incur eviction.

Faribault’s population was 9% black as of 2016, and of the black residents in Faribault, 90% of them are renters. This is in stark contrast to white residents, only 28% of whom are renters. Thus, the ACLU holds that the Crime-Free Housing Program disproportionately affects black people in the Faribault community.

The ACLU was able to strike down a similar policy in Savannah, Georgia.

After publication, the city of Faribault sent its response to the ACLU to HousingWire. Click here to see the response.

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