Monday, December 12, 2011

Housing/Civil Rights Lawsuit: Denial Of 'Affordable Housing' Condo Building Application Due To Town's 'No Blacks' Policy

In Darien, Connecticut, The New York Times reports:

  • DARIEN’S attitudes toward affordable housing are once again under scrutiny, this time in a federal civil rights action accusing the town’s planning and zoning commission, and its chairman, Frederick B. Conze, of trying to keep out black residents.

  • Christopher Hamer, a former Darien resident, filed the lawsuit last month, nearly two years after the commission denied his application to build condominiums, some below market rate, in a single-family neighborhood. The suit maintains that the commission’s denial was based on bias against housing that might attract blacks.

  • It accuses the commission of limiting opportunities for minorities to live in Darien by “keeping housing costs prohibitively high and preventing the construction of affordable housing units.”

  • Mr. Hamer’s accusations come as the federal Department of Justice continues investigating whether Darien violated the Fair Housing Act. When that inquiry began more than a year ago, federal authorities said they were specifically interested in a new provision in the zoning regulations that identified seven “priority populations” to be given preference for affordable housing.

  • Those populations largely consisted of people who already lived and/or worked in town, a policy that some fair-housing specialists said could be exclusionary given Darien’s small minority population. The planning and zoning commission has since repealed the “priority populations” provision.

  • To bolster its allegations of bias, Mr. Hamer’s suit cites public comments made by the commission’s chairman, Mr. Conze. One remark was taken from a 2008 hearing on another affordable housing application, in which Mr. Conze referred to such housing as “a virus” that needed to be contained.

  • The other is from his State of the Town Address last December, when, speaking of the trend toward development of high-density housing along transportation corridors, Mr. Conze warned, “The demographic and economic forces generated by our immediate neighbors to our east and west cannot be taken lightly,” adding that many people “view Darien as a housing opportunity regardless of its effect on the character of our town and existing home values.”

  • Darien’s neighbors to the east and west are the cities of Norwalk and Stamford. Mr. Hamer’s complaint contrasts the 0.5 percent of Darien’s population that is black with the roughly 22 percent in the bordering cities.

For more, see Housing Lawsuit Alleges Bias.

No comments: