Justice Department sues village for stalling on affordable housing project

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This artist's rendering of The Reserve was part of a packet provided to the Tinley Park Plan Commission in January.
This artist's rendering of The Reserve was part of a packet provided to the Tinley Park Plan Commission in January.

An affordable housing project that could be home to older adults, senior living workers and others in the future has been impeded by an Illinois village in response to race-based opposition in the community, the Justice Department alleged in a civil lawsuit filed Nov. 23.

The Chicago suburb of Tinley Park, IL, violated the Fair Housing Act when it refused to approve a 47-unit low-income housing development known as The Reserve, according to the federal complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The Columbus, OH-based Buckeye Community Hope Foundation sought to build the apartments in 2015 with financing through low-income housing tax credits administered by the Illinois Housing and Development Authority.

Although not designed exclusively as seniors housing, the development would be “especially helpful to young workers, seniors and families,” according to a list of frequently asked questions posted on the village's website, which added that the project “is more comparable to existing village residential developments like Brementowne Manor, which offers subsidized housing to senior citizens” than to “public housing.”

An analysis performed for Tinley Park by real estate and planning consulting firm Valerie S. Kretchmer Associates 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.

The lawsuit contends that Tinley Park's Plan Commission tabled consideration of the project at the request of village trustees, who made the request in response to race-based and other opposition, and that the Plan Commission's action has stalled the project indefinitely. The Justice Department is seeking a court order requiring the village to approve the development and to take other action to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act. It also is requesting monetary damages for individuals deemed to have been harmed by Tinley Park's actions, as well as a civil penalty.

A separate lawsuit brought by Buckeye also is pending against the village.

Tinley Park Mayor David G. Seaman told the Tinley Park Patch that the village “wholeheartedly disagrees” that its actions related to The Reserve were based on race “or any other improper considerations.”

“The village continues to object to the use of taxpayer dollars on this issue but is prepared to defend its actions through further court proceedings, if necessary,” he added. The village has given the Justice Department thousands of documents since being informed of its investigation in June, Seaman said.

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