Law School Case Brief
Metro. Hous. Dev. Corp. v. Vill. of Arlington Heights - 558 F.2d 1283 (7th Cir. 1977)
In determining under what circumstances conduct that produces a discriminatory impact but which was taken without discriminatory intent will violate 42 U.S.C.S. § 3604(a), there are four critical factors. They are: (1) how strong is the plaintiff's showing of discriminatory effect; (2) is there some evidence of discriminatory intent, (3) what is the defendant's interest in taking the action complained of; and (4) does the plaintiff seek to compel the defendant to affirmatively provide housing for members of minority groups or merely to restrain the defendant from interfering with individual property owners who wish to provide such housing.
Plaintiff Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation ("MHDC"), a nonprofit developer which had experience in using federal subsidies to build low-cost housing seek to compel defendant Village of Arlington Heights, Illinois ("the Village") to rezone MHDC’s property to permit the construction of federally financed low-cost housing. The Village refused to rezone the property on the basis of protection of property values and to maintain the integrity of its zoning plan. MHDC contended that the Village’s refusal to rezone the property was racially discriminatory.
Was there a clear showing that the Village's refusal to rezone had a discriminatory effect and thus in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.?
On remand from the Supreme Court of the United States for a determination of whether the Village's conduct violated the Fair Housing Act, the Circuit Court court held that in some circumstances a violation of § 3604(a) could be established by a showing of discriminatory effect without a showing of discriminatory intent. As such, the court analyzed four critical factors to find that this was a close case. Resolution of the matter turned on clarifying the discriminatory effect of the Village’s refusal to rezone. Whether the Village’s refusal had a strong discriminatory impact was unclear from the record. The Village acted pursuant to a legitimate grant of authority, and there was no evidence that its refusal to rezone was the result of intentional racial discrimination. The court remanded the case to the district court for a determination: if there is no land other than plaintiff MHCS's property within Arlington Heights which is both properly zoned and suitable for federally subsidized low-cost housing, then the Village's refusal to rezone constituted a violation of subject to the court's guidelines. Because the Village's zoning powers must give way to the Fair Housing Act, the district court was directed to grant plaintiff MHDC the requested relief if the Act was violated.
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