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Once a prima facie case of adverse impact is presented, the inquiry turns to the standard to be applied in determining whether the defendant can nonetheless avoid liability under Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 3601-3631. The defendant must prove that its actions furthered, in theory and in practice, a legitimate, bona fide governmental interest and that no alternative would serve that interest with less discriminatory effect.
Congress adopted broad remedial provisions to promote integration. One such statute, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3631 (1982 & Supp. III 1985) ("Fair Housing Act"), was enacted "to provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing throughout the United States." 42 U.S.C. § 3601. The Huntington Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Housing Help, Inc. (HHI), and two black, low-income residents of Huntington appeal from an adverse judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Glasser, J.), following a bench trial, in their suit against the Town of Huntington (the Town) and members of its Town Board. Appellants allege that the Town violated Title VIII by restricting private construction of multi-family housing to a narrow urban renewal area and by refusing to rezone the parcel outside this area where appellants wished to build multi-family housing. Specifically, appellants sought to construct an integrated, multi-family subsidized apartment complex in Greenlawn/East Northport, a virtually all-white neighborhood. The Town's zoning ordinance, however, prohibited private construction of multi-family housing outside a small urban renewal zone in the Huntington Station neighborhood, which is 52% minority. Thus, appellants petitioned the Town to revise its code to accommodate the project. When the Town refused, appellants brought this class-action to compel the change under Title VIII.
Did an overwhelmingly white suburb's zoning regulation, which restricts private multi-family housing projects to a largely minority "urban renewal area," and the Town Board's refusal to amend that ordinance to allow construction of subsidized housing in a white neighborhood violate Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 3601-3631?
The appellate court held that the zoning restriction had a discriminatory effect and that appellees had not shown a legitimate justification for their actions that outweighed this effect. The appellate court reversed the decision of the lower court and granted site-specific relief to appellants.