Coalition of Community-Based Organizations Sue HUD and Chicago Housing Authority Over Fair Housing Violations
Coalition of Community-Based Organizations Sue HUD and CHA for Plan to Turn Public Housing Land into Soccer Team’s Training Facility
CHICAGO, IL: The Coalition to Protect CHA Land, Chicago Housing Initiative, and Lugenia Burns Hope Center today filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) approval of the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) plan to lease 23 acres of public housing land for the construction of a sports training facility. This land at Roosevelt Square, a rapidly gentrifying area close to meaningful job opportunities, good schools, and convenient public transportation, would be leased to the Chicago Fire. This plan violates CHA’s fair housing obligations. In its rush to approval, HUD failed to consider the civil rights implications of approving this project. Worse still, the plan was rushed through a prior administration in an election year when the incoming Chicago mayor, Brandon Johnson, publicly opposed the disposition of public housing land for private uses.
Chicago is facing an affordable housing crisis, which disproportionately affects low-income Black families and people with disabilities. Instead of addressing this crisis by expanding affordable and accessible housing projects, CHA is actively disposing of land that has always been designated for public housing. The CHA plans to lease 23 acres of land at the former ABLA Homes development on the City’s near west side for the next sixty years to a soccer team owned by billionaire Joe Mansueto.
“It’s a shame that in order to get the government to work for low-income and working families, we have to sue. And this billionaire didn’t have to lift a finger to get public housing land for his private endeavor. The city sought him out,” said Rod Wilson, executive director of the Lugenia Burns Hope Center. “We hope that with this lawsuit, there begins some accountability with CHA and HUD. All the things wrong with CHA over the past decades have been due to lack of oversight and accountability from HUD. HUD has been complicit in the mismanagement of CHA and as a result, the displacement and destruction of Black families.”
Before approving this proposal, HUD was required to conduct a civil rights review and determine whether the plan complied with civil rights laws and would further CHA’s obligation to affirmatively further fair housing. HUD ignored that legal obligation.
“Rather than conducting the required civil rights review, HUD violated its mandate to follow and enforce civil rights laws. The Coalition presented HUD an analysis of the impacts this proposal would have on Black families and people with disabilities and urged HUD to reject the deal. Shamefully, HUD abdicated this responsibility and rushed to approve this deal,” said Emily Coffey, director of equitable community development and housing at Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.
The Coalition and community groups, through their attorneys at Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, National Housing Law Project and Legal Action Chicago, presented HUD with evidence that CHA’s proposal would exacerbate the affordable housing crisis and perpetuate racial segregation by depriving low-income Black families and individuals with disabilities of the opportunity to live in a neighborhood with easy access many resources.
“CHA should be creating new housing for the thousands of families in need in Chicago – but instead they gave up valuable public land to a billionaire and his soccer team,” said Kate Walz, associate director of litigation of the National Housing Law Project. “To add insult to injury, HUD evaded its own civil rights obligations by approving this deal at the expense of low-income Black households and persons with disabilities.”
HUD violated its own administrative procedures by ignoring this evidence and rushing to approve the plan before Mayor Brandon Johnson, who campaigned on a promise to hold CHA accountable by “immediately enacting a freeze on the transfer of CHA land to non-housing uses,” could assume office.
“HUD was created to carry out the federal commitment to housing people no market can house. The CHA is not housing enough people. Instead, it’s trading land for cash while not using the money it has to produce promised units or maintain its existing housing. HUD needs to step in and compel the CHA to do its job,” said Don Washington, executive director of the Chicago Housing Initiative.
The Coalition to Protect CHA Land, Chicago Housing Initiatives and Lugenia Burns Hope Center are represented in the lawsuit by Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, National Housing Law Project, and Legal Action Chicago, as well as attorneys from the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP, who recently settled a federal lawsuit that challenged CHA’s implementation of its minimum rent policy. Read today’s complaint here.