On April 19, 2016, Relman, Dane & Colfax filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of Buckeye Community Hope Foundation (“Buckeye”), a non-profit affordable housing developer, challenging the Village of Tinley Park’s obstruction of Buckeye’s efforts to build a multi-family affordable housing development. Tinley Park, which is thirty miles southwest of Chicago, is just 3.6 percent African American, but a much larger percentage of the neighboring population that is eligible for affordable housing is African American.
In early 2015, Buckeye began plans to construct a 47-unit apartment complex, known as The Reserve, for low-income individuals and families. For nearly a year, Buckeye worked with the Village’s Planning Department to finalize plans for The Reserve and, at the end of the process, the Planning Department concluded that Buckeye’s proposal was in “precise conformance” with the Village code. Just days before the Plan Commission was expected to vote to approve the proposal, the project was publicized in a local newspaper and fierce community opposition to the project erupted.
The opposition to The Reserve has been explicitly based on discriminatory attitudes toward African Americans and lower income families with children. One resident yelled out during a Village Trustee meeting, “Tinley Park has 20 percent minority! Orland Park has 6! Why don’t you build it over there? Build it in your backyard! I don’t want it...built in Tinley.” Another resident posted: “I will not let them destroy my good, safe neighborhood. Tinley is an upscale neighborhood that needs more upscale housing not ‘affordable low income housing’ that’s what Country Club Hills [a city that is 87% African American] is for!” Other residents compared The Reserve to the now-demolished, predominantly African-American public housing developments in Chicago, such as the Robert Taylor Homes and Harold Ickes Homes.
Village officials endorsed the public’s discriminatory opposition to The Reserve by repeatedly expressing support for the project’s opponents and revealing their own discriminatory attitudes. One Trustee called for “community backlash” to the project and the Village’s Mayor brought doughnuts and coffee to protestors at The Reserve site. The Village proceeded to take a series of unprecedented and impermissible actions intended to derail the project. With the Village refusing to approve the project, the contract to purchase the property and the Low Income Housing Tax Credits awarded to the project are threatened.
The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law is co-counsel in the case.