Judge Marvin E. Aspen Accepts CHA/BPI Settlement

Jan 23, 2019

CHICAGO (January 23, 2019): Ending more than a half-century of strict Federal Court supervision and signaling recognition that the city has made great strides in remedying previous discriminatory housing policies, today U.S. District Court Judge Marvin E. Aspen lifted the original court order in what is known as the Gautreaux case and replaced it with a settlement agreement presented jointly to the court by Business and Professional People in the Public Interest (BPI) and the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) – formerly the antagonists in the 1960s civil rights case. 

Upon hearing of the historic decision Mayor Rahm Emanuel commented, “The ruling could not have come at a more appropriate time. Martin Luther King told us, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ When Dr. King came to Chicago to shine a light on discriminatory housing, he inspired Dorothy Gautreaux to action. Her lawsuit against CHA and HUD led to the Gautreaux Order compelling fair housing in all communities. The lifting of that order and its replacement by a settlement proposed by formerly adversarial parties is a sign of the progress we have made together as a city.” Emanuel continued, “The journey towards progress has been long, and it is one Chicago could only make by working together with strong partners like BPI. This decision marks a seminal moment in Chicago’s history.”

Originally filed by BPI in Federal District Court in 1966, the complaint accused the CHA and the City of Chicago of violating the civil rights of Dorothy Gautreaux and other CHA tenants through a conscious policy of segregation and racial discrimination as evidenced by CHA’s building and offering housing solely in poor, minority neighborhoods.

In July 1969, the Federal District Court agreed that CHA had discriminated in site selection and tenant assignment. In its ruling – Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Auth., 296 F.Supp. 907 (N.D.Ill.1969) (Gautreaux I) – the Court prohibited CHA from doing any further building in so-called “restricted” areas and ordered it to affirmatively create housing for tenants in “opportunity” (mixed-income, mixed race) areas. BPI was assigned the responsibility of monitoring and assessing CHA efforts to fulfill the Court’s mandate.

While further restrictions imposed on the CHA by the Court in 1987 (as a result of CHA’s failure to perform) designated The Habitat Company as receiver and developer for the CHA (roles that continued until 2010), court supervision of the original 1969 Gautreaux agreement and BPI’s role as monitor remained in place.

The settlement approved by the judge affirms that court supervision is no longer necessary because:

  • Over the past decade, and particularly in the last few years, CHA has implemented programs to remedy past discrimination, including building of mixed income housing on seven formerly isolated CHA sites; building, co-developing and acquiring housing throughout Chicago; and an aggressive effort to ensure the acceptance of Housing Choice Vouchers throughout the city.
  • CHA’s future plans include building or acquiring more housing in mixed-income configurations or neighborhoods to assure access, diversity and opportunity.

In the settlement the CHA agrees to:

  • Abide by a detailed schedule for planning and construction of its “Plan for Transformation” for mixed-income communities currently underway or planned.
  • Develop all housing for families in non-mixed income communities in opportunity areas until at least 50 percent of all non-mixed-income family units are in opportunity areas.  
  • Strengthen its voucher program to better enable families to live in opportunity areas, if they choose to do so.
  • Create early learning childhood development programs at four public housing complexes, replicating a program currently in place at the Altgeld Gardens

“All of Chicago should be proud of the progress made – as all have been willing partners in ending decades of segregation,” said CHA CEO Eugene E, Jones, Jr. “Today the Chicago Housing Authority owns and provides affordable housing in 76 of the city’s 77 communities while more than 47,000 voucher holders are now renting in all 77. Moving forward we will continue to invest in a way that creates opportunity for both individuals and communities.”

The Court Order can be viewed at http://www.thecha.org/residents/public-housing/notice-gautreaux-settlement. Photos and addresses of CHA properties can be found at www.thecha.org.