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Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents









  1. This action is brought by the United States of America to enforce the provisions of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq. It is brought pursuant to Section 814(b)(1)(A) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3614(b)(1)(A).
  2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 3614(b).
  3. Defendant City of Lake Station ("City") is a municipality of the State of Indiana, located within the Northern District of Indiana.
  4. Defendant Advisory Plan Commission of the City of Lake Station, Indiana ("Plan Commission") was established by the City pursuant to § 36-7-4-201 et seq. of the Indiana Code and is located within the Northern District of Indiana.
  5. The City and the Plan Commission exercise zoning and planning powers over land within the City's boundaries. Under Title XXI of the City's Zoning Ordinance, which was enacted by the City Council, the Plan Commission has been given the authority to render decisions regarding subdivision plats. The City acts by and through the Commission with respect to applications for subdivsion plat approval. All members of the Plan Commission are either City officials or their designees.
  6. According to the 1990 Census, the City has a population of 13,899 people, only 31 or 0.2% of whom are African American.
  7. The Lake County Economic Development Corporation ("LCEDC") is a nonprofit corporation formed by Lake County, Indiana in 1986, to pursue development projects and educational and charitable activities designed to alleviate unemployment, blight and deterioration in Lake County, Indiana.
  8. In 1994, LCEDC purchased approximately 107 acres of property in the City. The main entrance to the tract is along Old Hobart Road, which forms the northern boundary of the property. The southern boundary of the property is formed by Deep River. LCEDC purchased this property for the purpose of developing a subdivision of affordable single family homes.
  9. LCEDC planned to use Community Development Block Grant ("CDBG") funds from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to finance development of the subdivision. The homes were to be sold to purchasers at cost, thereby reducing their purchase price. No government funds or subsidies other than the aforementioned CDBG funds were going to be used, and homebuyers would have obtained conventional loans from traditional private lenders. Because LCEDC would not have made any profit on the sale of the homes, the homes would have been affordable for low and moderate income households.
  10. On or about January 9, 1995, LCEDC filed with the Plan Commission an application to develop a subdivision called Timbercreek Estates ("Timbercreek") on the above described property. The application stated that the subdivision would include 182 lots to be developed as single family residences. LCEDC planned to develop the subdivision in phases, with the first phase consisting of the 63 lots closest to Old Hobart Road.
  11. In early 1995, the Plan Commission conducted extensive public hearings on the Timbercreek proposal. On May 17, 1995, the Plan Commission voted three to one against granting preliminary plat approval for Timbercreek. Thereafter, LCEDC obtained an order in state court mandating that the Plan Commission reconsider the Timbercreek proposal. The court ruled that the vote had been taken without the requisite quorum of the nine member Commission.
  12. In 1996, LCEDC amended its subdivision application to cover only the first 63 lot phase of the subdivision. The Plan Commission conducted additional public hearings on the amended application. On August 28, 1996, the Plan Commission voted four to three against granting preliminary plat approval on the revised Timbercreek proposal. On September 25, 1996, the Plan Commission agreed to hear an appeal by LCEDC, but then voted against the amended application. LCEDC again challenged the Plan Commission's actions in state court, and again, the state court ruled that the Plan Commission's votes regarding Timbercreek were void. It found that the Plan Commission had not met the statutory requirement that an application for preliminary plat approval be approved or denied by a majority -- i.e., five members -- of the Commission.
  13. The various public hearings held in 1995 and 1996 on LCEDC's proposal for Timbercreek were well attended by members of the public, most of whom were opposed to the subdivision. Many attendees asked questions or made comments indicating their fear that African Americans would move into Timbercreek.
  14. Defendants believed that if Timbercreek had been approved and developed, African Americans would have moved into the development.
  15. The Plan Commission voted against approving the preliminary plat for Timbercreek in both 1995 and 1996, despite the fact that the Timbercreek proposal met all requirements set forth in applicable City ordinances.
  16. In 1991 and 1992, the Plan Commission granted another developer, Stephen Tokar, approval to develop an even larger subdivision on the same Timbercreek property. Tokar had proposed a subdivision of 231 lots, consisting of both single-family homes and multi-family dwellings, principally duplexes. Tokar was a private developer. He did not plan to use any government funds in his development. After obtaining approval from the Plan Commission but before beginning construction, Tokar decided not to pursue the project. Thereafter, he sold the property to LCEDC.
  17. Defendants have taken actions, including voting against LCEDC's Timbercreek proposal, which have been intended to appease citizens who feared that African Americans would move into Timbercreek and/or which have been intended to prevent African Americans from moving into the City.
  18. The Northwest Indiana Open Housing Center ("NIOHC") is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote open housing choice, with special emphasis on addressing racial barriers to such choice. NIOHC monitored and investigated the dispute over Timbercreek and sent a staff member to attend the various public hearings on the proposal.
  19. On August 25, 1995, NIOHC filed with the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") a complaint of housing discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610, alleging that the Plan Commission's denial of the Timbercreek subdivision application constituted discrimination based upon race in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The Secretary of HUD determined that the complaint involved the legality of State or local zoning or other land use laws or ordinances and, accordingly, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g), referred the matter to the Attorney General for appropriate action on June 4, 1997.
  20. The Attorney General is authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 3614(b)(1)(A) to bring this action upon the referral of the Secretary of HUD.
  21. By denying approval for Timbercreek, the Plan Commission made housing unavailable on the basis of race, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a).
  22. By denying approval for Timbercreek through its Plan Commission and by otherwise preventing development of Timbercreek, the City has made housing unavailable on the basis of race, in violation 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a).
  23. There are persons, including LCEDC and NIOHC, who are victims of defendants' discriminatory actions as described above and are aggrieved persons as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i). These persons have suffered, or may have suffered, damages as a result of defendants' discriminatory conduct.
  24. Defendants' conduct has been intentional, willful, and taken in disregard of the rights of others.

WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter a JUDGMENT that:

  1. Declares that the actions of the defendants described herein constitute violations of the Fair Housing Act;
  2. Enjoins the defendants, their officials, agents, and employees, and all other persons in active concert or participation with them, from continuing to discriminate on the basis of race in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.;
  3. Requires such actions by the defendants as may be necessary to restore all persons aggrieved by defendants' discriminatory housing practices to the position they would have occupied but for the defendants' discriminatory conduct, including, but not limited to, granting approval to the Timbercreek subdivision proposal;
  4. Awards such damages as would fully compensate each person aggrieved by the defendants' discriminatory housing practices for the injuries that they have suffered as a result thereof, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B); and
  5. Assesses a civil penalty against each defendant in an amount authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C), in order to vindicate the public interest.
  6. The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.

Attorney General

Acting Assistnat Attorney General

Chief, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Deputy Chief
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division
Department of Justice
P.O. Box 65998
Washington, D.C. 20035-5998
(202) 514-4713

United States Attorney

Assistant United States
1001 Main Street, Ste. A
Dyer, IN 46311
(219) 322-8576 > >

Updated August 6, 2015