FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECR
FRIDAY, JUNE 1, 2001(202) 616-2777
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
CITY OF MILWAUKEE SETTLES FAIR HOUSING ACT LAWSUIT
WASHINGTON, D.C.-- A proposed senior citizen facility will go forward in Milwaukee under a fair housing settlement between the United States and the city of Milwaukee, the Department of Justice announced today. The agreement resolves claims that the city allegedly violated the Fair Housing Act by blocking the construction of a senior citizen housing and meal facility sponsored by the Indian Council of the Elderly, Inc., the School Sisters of St. Francis, and the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.
The agreement also requires the city to pay $340,000 to these groups and to other individuals, to compensate them for damages they incurred because the city denied a zoning variance for the facility.
"While cities have a right to control their local zoning, they cannot allow their zoning decisions to be influenced by racial bias," said Acting Assistant Attorney General William R. Yeomans. "The consent order will allow the Indian Council to finally move forward with this development, providing much needed housing to the low- and moderate-income elderly of greater Milwaukee."
The Justice Department in February 1997 sued the city of Milwaukee, alleging that the city's denial of the variance was impermissibly influenced by the discriminatory motives of local residents and a member of the Milwaukee Common Council in whose district the senior center would have been built. The Indian Council of the Elderly sought the zoning variance to build a 49-unit housing complex and meal facility in southwest Milwaukee, to serve elderly Native Americans and other senior citizens. Local residents and a member of the Milwaukee Common Council vocally opposed the construction because they believed that it would be visited by Native Americans, according to the lawsuit.
Under the consent order approved yesterday in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee, the city of Milwaukee has entered into an agreement with Milwaukee County, the city of Greenfield, and the Indian Council for the Elderly will allow the senior complex to be built on a site in Armour Park. The original site will be conveyed to Milwaukee County and incorporated into Armour Park.
The Department of Justice's lawsuit was consolidated with a lawsuit filed by the Indian Council of the Elderly, Inc., the School Sisters of St. Francis, and the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. The federal consent order resolves the claims of those organizations as well.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, James L. Santelle added, "The resolution of this case accomplishes an important result for the community. The United States Department of Justice is committed to enforcing the fair housing laws in ways that ensure access to housing for all of our citizens. The construction of the senior citizen housing and meal center will symbolize that commitment while promoting the civil rights of all of those who choose to use the facility."