FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kate Walz
Director, Housing Justice
HOPE Fair Housing
In response to complaints filed by the Shriver Center on behalf of two former residents of Jericho Circle and a complaint filed by HOPE Fair Housing Center, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued a letter notifying the Aurora Housing Authority (AHA) that it is in violation of federal civil rights and fair housing laws. HUD based its findings on AHA’s demolition and redevelopment plans for the Jericho Circle public housing project, which comprised nearly 22% of the public housing available in Aurora, Illinois. This is the first time that HUD has found a violation of fair housing laws based on a housing authority’s failure to redevelop public housing.
In 2010 AHA announced plans to demolish Jericho Circle and redevelop the site with mixed-income housing. Although the development was demolished in 2012, AHA failed to make good on its promise to residents to rebuild their homes. Two former Jericho Circle residents, Tonya Hayes and Shirley Fraction, complained to HUD that AHA’s actions in relocating residents, demolishing Jericho Circle, and failing to redevelop the site as promised discriminated against the former residents on the basis of their race, color, and/or familial status. In late 2011 and early 2012, HOPE Fair Housing Center and the Shriver Center urged the City of Aurora and the AHA both to consider the fair housing implications that a failure to redevelop would have and to fulfill their duty to affirmatively further fair housing. HOPE Fair Housing Center also provided fair housing education and training to the AHA board in 2012.
In its 30-page letter, HUD describes a campaign by the City of Aurora to oppose redevelopment of the Jericho Circle site. Among other things, the city refused to sign a certification necessary for AHA to pursue funding for redevelopment. The city also removed four AHA board members who supported redevelopment and replaced them with members who ultimately opposed the plan. The newly configured AHA board ultimately reneged on its plans to redevelop the site.
HUD’s letter finds that AHA violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Fair Housing Act. “These findings are significant,” said Kate Walz, Director of Housing Justice for the Shriver Center. “Aurora Housing Authority's good intentions were thwarted by the local government, and the housing authority was essentially taken over by the local government's discriminatory animus. This sends a message to local governments who obstruct the development of affordable housing by controlling the actions of their local public housing authorities,” said Walz.
“A lot of people in Aurora worked really hard to create a redevelopment proposal that would have resulted in high-quality, well-managed housing placed on property that the AHA owns,” said Anne Houghtaling, Executive Director of HOPE Fair Housing Center. “The continued failure to allow this affordable housing is harming vulnerable members of our society and violating civil rights laws. We applaud HUD’s thorough investigation in this case.”
Tonya Hayes agrees. "The housing authority's complete change of plans makes no sense and the only reason for it could be discrimination. I just want the housing authority to keep its promise to rebuild - not just for my family but for all the other people who are desperate for somewhere to call home," she said.
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law provides national leadership in advancing laws and policies that secure justice to improve the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty. We specialize in practical solutions. Through our advocacy, communication, and training programs, we advocate for and serve clients directly, while also building the capacity of the nation's legal aid providers to advance justice and opportunity for their clients.
Established in 1968, HOPE is the oldest fair housing center in Illinois. HOPE Fair Housing Center seeks to create equal housing opportunities regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, familial status, or any other characteristics protected under state or local laws. Located in West Chicago, HOPE serves 30 counties in northern and north central Illinois.
The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law provides national leadership in advancing laws and policies that secure justice to improve the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty. We specialize in practical solutions. We advocate for and serve clients directly, while also building the capacity of the nation’s legal aid providers to advance justice and opportunity for their clients. www.povertylaw.orgDownload this