Department of Justice Seal



FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2000

(202) 514-2007


TDD (202) 514-1888



WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department filed suit today against the City of Fairview Heights, Illinois for violating the federal Fair Housing Act, charging that the city was racially motivated in denying a real estate development application.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, Illinois, alleged that the City of Fairview Heights violated the federal Fair Housing Act by refusing to approve an application from T.R. Forte Investments to build a luxury apartment complex in the city. The suit alleges that the opposition to the development was, in large part, racial because the principals involved are African American and because of fears that African Americans would move into the housing.

"For over 25 years it has been illegal to deny the dream of decent housing to persons because of their race. We will continue to aggressively enforce the law to make that dream come true," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General.

According to the Justice Department's complaint, the 1990 Census found that the City of Fairview Heights has a population of 14,351 with 1158, or 8.1%, African Americans.

The developer, T.R. Forte Investments, Inc., is a real estate company based in DeSoto, Texas run by Rodney L. Forte, who is African American. According to the Justice Department's complaint, Forte, in partnership with the Lasker Construction Company, developed a plan to build The Villas at Lake Chester, a 154 unit luxury apartment complex in Fairview Heights. The owner of Lasker construction, Greg Lasker, as well as the real estate agent and the appraiser working on the development are also African American.

Today's suit claims that a series of hearings were held before the city's Planning Commission, Planning Committee, and City Council at which members of the public voiced opposition to the housing development based on the fear that residents would be on Section 8 assistance. Despite assurances from Forte that he would not accept rent subsidies, the City voted to reject the plan in December, 1998. Forte's application and the Villas proposal met all requirements set forth in the applicable city ordinances.

The city claimed that it rejected the development because of fears that it would negatively impact on traffic and school services, however prior to its decision, the city received letters from local school and road officials indicating that such an impact would not be severe. In addition, the city had approved an even larger residential development for the same site in 1985 which was estimated to have a much greater impact on schools and roads.

Following the rejection, the developer filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development which was subsequently referred to the Department of Justice.

The Justice Department's suit seeks an order requiring the city to cease discriminating, to grant approval for the proposed project, to pay damages to persons aggrieved by the discriminatory practices, and to pay civil penalties.