The Justice Department has brought a lawsuit against Joliet, Ill., accusing the city of seeking to “limit or reduce” its number of black residents by seizing a federally subsidized housing development through eminent domain. The move displaces more than 750 low-income residents, more than 95 percent of whom are black.
The lawsuit, announced Friday, was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago and accuses Joliet city officials of violating the Fair Housing Act when they took actions to condemn the privately owned Evergreen Terrace apartment complex, which provides 356 units of affordable housing in Joliet. The city says it is merely trying to clear up urban blight, saying Evergreen Terrace has become a crime magnet. It also said the city has long planned to redevelop the site for affordable housing and to assist with the relocation of residents, putting aside $3.5 million. But the Justice Department charged that the eminent domain action would have a “disproportionate adverse impact on African-Americans and operate to perpetuate segregation in Joliet.” It stated, “Today’s action is a reminder that when local governments take unjustified actions that reduce opportunities for affordable housing, they risk violating federal anti-discrimination laws.”