Friday, April 27, 2012

Civil Rights Feds Settle Race Discrimination Suit Saying City Responded To Public Opposition By Nixing Affordable Housing Project It Earlier Approved

From the Office of the U.S. Department of Justice:

  • The Department of Justice announced [Wednesday, April 11, 2012] that it has settled its lawsuit against the city of New Berlin, Wis., for race discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
  • Filed in June 2011, the lawsuit alleged that the city of New Berlin blocked a 180-unit affordable housing project that a developer, MSP Real Estate Inc., had proposed for the city center area of New Berlin.
  • The city’s planning commission initially approved the project, but reversed course and denied it weeks later, after hundreds of residents objected to it. The suit alleged that opposition was based partly on racial stereotypes and fear that the project’s tenants would be African-American.
  • The lawsuit also charged that the city, in response to public opposition, changed its zoning and land use requirements to bar affordable housing in the city center in the future.
  • Shortly after the United States filed a motion for preliminary injunction requesting that the court order the city to allow MSP’s affordable housing project, the city agreed to issue the necessary permits to allow MSP’s affordable housing development to be built.
  • The settlement, filed [] as a proposed consent decree in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, requires that the city not take any further action to obstruct or delay the affordable housing project. It also requires that the city take affirmative steps to provide for future affordable housing, communicate its commitment to fair housing and establish a mechanism to ensure open and fair housing in New Berlin.(1)
For the Justice Department press release, see Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Against City of New Berlin, Wisconsin, for Blocking Affordable Housing.

(1) As part of the settlement, the city agreed to modify changes it made to its zoning and land use requirements following public opposition to allow for future additional affordable housing in the city center. The settlement requires the city to provide a minimum of $75,000 to establish a Housing Trust Fund, which will finance projects that promote affordable housing, residential integration and equal housing opportunity. In addition, city officials must develop a Fair Housing Outreach Plan to encourage tenants and developers of affordable housing to come to New Berlin, appoint a fair housing compliance officer, and undergo fair housing training. It also provides for a $5,000 civil penalty to be paid to the United States.

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