A suburb of Chicago will pay more than $400,000 as part of a settlement with the Department of Justice, which accused the city of denying a low-income housing development in response to “race-based community opposition.”
According to the DOJ, the Village of Tinley Park allegedly discriminated against prospective tenants in a proposed low-income housing development when it elected not to allow the development to move forward after a race-based outcry in the community.
The DOJ’s complaint alleged that the village’s Plan Commission refused to vote on the development’s plans in “response to community opposition to the proposed development that was based on race or color.”
The refusal to vote on the development moving forward was in spite of the development conforming to all local zoning and planning rules, as determined by the village’s own planning department.
According to the DOJ, the Tinley Park’s planning department’s found that the project was in “precise conformance” with the applicable building requirements and should have been allowed to proceed.
But the Tinley Park Plan Commission, at the request of Tinley Park trustees, did not approve the project or allow construction to begin, as it should have.
That decision stalled the project indefinitely, effectively killing what would have been a 47-unit multifamily affordable housing development that was to be financed using the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program.
The complaint further alleged that the Tinley Park Plan Commission’s decision was made with the “intent and with the effect of discriminating against prospective African-American tenants of Buckeye’s proposed development.”
That action, according to the DOJ, meant that Tinley Park had engaged in a “pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of race or color, and a denial of rights to a group of persons that raises an issue of general public importance,” in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The village denies these allegations, claiming that none of its actions had a “discriminatory motive, intent, or result.” The village, for its part, claimed that the proposed development did not meet the requirements of the village’s “Legacy Code.”
Despite those protestations, the village still agreed to a $410,000 settlement with the DOJ to “avoid the costs and risks of further litigation.”
As part of the settlement, the village will pay a fine of $50,000 to the federal government, but the remainder of the payout will go to the village’s former planning director who was placed on leave because of her support for the project.
Under the agreement, the former planning director will receive $360,000 from Tinley Park.
Additionally, the village is also required to take a number of steps to protect against further housing discrimination in the future, including training elected officials and individuals involved in the planning process, developing a fair housing policy, and hiring a fair housing compliance officer.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the village previously reached a $2.45 million settlement with the developer of the doomed property.
Increasing access to housing, including through affordable housing, is important to the development of our communities,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division said. “The Justice Department will continue to enforce federal civil rights laws, and protect against discrimination, including on the basis of race, with respect to access to affordable housing.”