U.S. Attorney sues Joliet over housing discrimination

August 5, 2011

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The federal government is suing the city of Joliet for housing discrimination.

The suit involves Evergreen Terrace, a low-income housing development with mostly black residents. Joliet wants to condemn the federally-subsidized apartments and relocate the tenants. But the U.S. Department of Justice says the city doesn’t have a realistic affordable housing plan that can accommodate the displaced residents.

A complaint filed in Chicago Thursday says getting rid of Evergreen Terrace would reduce the number of African-Americans living in Joliet and thereby perpetuate segregation in that city. Without Evergreen Terrace, civil rights attorneys say there’s a lack of comparable local housing. Nearly 800 residents live in the complex, which is across from the Des Plaines River and Harrah’s Casino.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the city from condemnation proceedings without ensuring adequate affordable housing in its place.

Joliet officials have previously called the building an eyesore and open-air drug market, and they followed through by officially labeling the building as blighted.

Contractors from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, however, found those conclusions lacked merit. The complaint cites comments from Joliet officials that publicly expressed hostility toward Evergreen Terrace, including one that called the building a “cancer on the civic body of Joliet.”

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