Housing in Brief: HUD Investigates Environmental Racism Claims in Chicago

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Housing in Brief: HUD Investigates Environmental Racism Claims in Chicago

Also: Landlords fight CDC’s eviction moratorium, and L.A. will provide 6,000 new shelter beds for people experiencing homelessness. 

(Photo by Andrew Horne / CC BY 2.0)

HUD Investigates Environmental Racism Claims in Chicago

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has opened an investigation into allegations of environmental racism in Chicago after a group of residents raised concerns about the relocation of a metal-shredding facility, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times. The city is supporting the relocation of General Iron from a wealthy, white neighborhood in Lincoln Park to a majority-Latino neighborhood on the East Side, according to the report. “The city has unlawfully discriminated against protected classes based on its long history of moving industrial uses to low-income communities of color,” the group said in its complaint, according to an earlier Sun-Times report. The groups involved in the complaint said that the city’s zoning policies have disproportionately burdened Black and Latino communities while benefiting white ones, according to the report. They claim that the city has violated the Fair Housing Act, the report says.

“Racist policies are killing our neighborhood by making it a dumping ground for the dirtiest and most dangerous polluters,” Peggy Salazar, director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, one of the organizations that filed the complaint with HUD, told the Sun-Times.

HUD officials confirmed that they had opened an investigation but didn’t comment further, the report says. The groups noted that the city supported the facility’s move to their community even though it had cited the facility for pollution and nuisance violations, the report says. They say the facility is “a source of noxious fumes, explosions, dust and a substance called auto shredder fluff created by the shredding of junked cars,” according to the report. The City of Chicago is currently reviewing the unequal racial impacts of some of its land-use policies, like inclusionary housing and transit-oriented development, as Next City has reported.

Landlords Fight CDC Eviction Moratorium

A group of landlords challenging the eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was in virtual court this week arguing that a federal judge should invalidate the order, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times. The CDC’s September 1st order “suspends evictions for the rest of the year for tenants who submit a form to their landlords saying under penalty of perjury that among other qualifications, they can’t pay their rent because of a loss in income, and that an eviction would either render them homeless or force them to move into a new shared living setting,” the story notes. One Virginia landlord initially filed the challenge in a federal court in Georgia, and the suit was later joined by landlords in other states and the National Apartment Association, according to the report. The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Caleb Kruckenberg, works for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which has connections to organizations funded by the conservative Koch brothers, the report says. The landlords argue that the CDC moratorium violates their rights.

“The idea that an administrative agency focused on public health can walk in and shut down court systems across the country is really breathtaking,” Kruckenberg said during the hearing, according to the report. “It cannot be my clients’ responsibility to provide free housing indefinitely just because there’s economic hardship because of the pandemic.”

Leslie Cooper Vigen, a lawyer representing the CDC, said that the agency had taken “admittedly very wide-ranging action but it’s what is necessary … when we have such widespread contagion,” according to the report. Repealing the order could result in millions of evictions, Vigen said. The landlords are asking for the order to be temporarily suspended while the lawsuit continues, according to the report.

L.A. Agrees to Spend $300 Million Housing Homeless People Living Near Freeways

The City of Los Angeles has agreed to create 5,300 new shelter beds for people experiencing homelessness by April, with the help of $300 million provided by Los Angeles County, according to a report in LAist. The agreement is related to a case, highlighted by Next City earlier this year, in which a federal judge ruled that the city and county needed to provide housing for people living near L.A. freeways. The judge personally toured some of the areas where unsheltered people were living in April, as reports noted at the time. Last week, according to LAist, a different judge serving as mediator for the city and county “set up an emergency hearing and ordered both parties to stop wasting time and work out exactly how they were going to provide beds and services to thousands of homeless people living near freeways.” The report says that the county has agreed to pay the city $60 million a year for the next five years to provide shelter for unhoused people, and a “one-time bonus” of $8 million if the city succeeds in meeting the April target of 5,300 new beds. More than 66,000 people are experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County this year, up 12 percent from last year, according to a report in NPR.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.

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Tags: chicagolos angelescovid-19homelessnessevictionsenvironmental justice

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