The Village of Tinley Park, IL, will pay $410,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that it violated the Fair Housing Act when it refused to approve an affordable housing development in response to race-based community opposition, the Department of Justice announced Friday.
“Increasing access to housing, including through affordable housing, is important to the development of our communities,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.
The Justice Department had filed the lawsuit in November 2016, as McKnight’s Senior Living previously reported. Although not designed exclusively as seniors housing, the 47-unit development, called The Reserve, would be “especially helpful to young workers, seniors and families,” according to a list of frequently asked questions that was posted at the time on the Chicago suburb’s website. Information on the website also indicated that the project was “more comparable to existing village residential developments like Brementowne Manor, which offers subsidized housing to senior citizens” than to “public housing.”
The development could have been home to senior living workers as well, according to an analysis performed for Tinley Park by real estate and planning consulting firm Valerie S. Kretchmer Associates. The analysis assumed that the maximum income permitted for tenant eligibility would be $50,000, based on the income ranges of local affordable housing residents, the size of the units planned for The Reserve and other information. Workers with wages that fall within income levels required for low-income housing tax credit properties, Kretchmer said, include nursing assistants, home health aides and others working in healthcare support occupations, as well as those working in education, childcare and secretarial jobs.
Under Tinley Park’s zoning ordinances, the village’s Plan Commission should have approved the project and allowed construction to begin. Instead, the lawsuit alleged that village trustees requested the Plan Commission table consideration of the project. The Plan Commission did so, stalling the project indefinitely.
Under the settlement, the village will pay $360,000 in damages to the village’s former planning director, who was placed on leave because of her support for the project, as well as a $50,000 civil penalty to the federal government. The village also has agreed to train elected officials and individuals involved in the planning process, develop a fair housing policy and hire a fair housing compliance officer to prevent further housing discrimination.
The developer of the property, Columbus, OH-based Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, reached a separate settlement with the village in April 2017.
Tinley Park Mayor David G. Seaman had told the Tinley Park Patch in November 2016 that the village “wholeheartedly” disagreed that its actions related to The Reserve were based on race “or any other improper considerations.”