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After a roughly two-year investigation, federal officials have discovered the city of Chicago has violated the civil rights of its residents by relocating polluting businesses from white neighborhoods into Latino and Black communities. These areas have already been overwhelmed with health and environmental issues.
In a letter, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) demanded that the city must change its unlawful planning, zoning, and land-use policies so they no longer discriminate against communities of color.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration accused the federal officials of leaking the letter to media outlets. Her office argued, “Any allegations that we have done something to compromise the health and safety of our Black and Brown communities are absolutely absurd.” They plan on demonstrating their claims are false.
Recently, Chicago officials rejected an application for the final permit the Reserve Management Group needed to operate its already completed facility in February. They said the permit posed as an “unacceptable risk” to the health of residents.”
The director of the compliance and disability rights division for the Office of Enforcement for the U.S. Department of HUD, Jacy Gaige, signed a letter calling the decision “an important step in addressing potential harm of the actions discussed in this letter.” The owners of the Reserve Management Group have already appealed the city’s decision and “the permitting remains pending,” she added.
HUD began its investigation into the city on Oct. 2, 2020, in response to a complaint filed with the Department by the Southeast Environmental Task Force, the South East Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke, and People for Community Recovery. According to HUD’s letter, the advocates filed the complaint alleging that the city of Chicago violated Title VI and Section 109 by causing the relocation of a large metal recycling company from a major white neighborhood to a majority Hispanic and Black community.
During their investigation into the city, the U.S. Department of HUD reviewed document’s relating to Chicago’s relevant practices, policies, decisions, and actions. HUD inspected the city’s administrative and communications records, along with publicly available data and documents, including those regarding health and environmental hazards in Chicago.
In their letter, the Department noted that the city failed to fully produce the requested information in a timely manner. Furthermore, city officials are being accused of delaying the production of some requested materials without good cause.
It also states that the city failed to produce requested documents that the press or other petitioners received under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act or related laws.
If the city of Chicago fails to radicate these allegations they are at risk of losing hundreds of millions a year in federal housing money.
Written by Sheena Robertson
WTTW: Letter of Findings of Noncompliance with Title VI and Section 109
ABC 7: Chicago violated residents’ civil rights by moving polluters to Black, Latino neighborhoods: HUD
WTTW: Decision to Allow Metal Scrapper to Move from North Side to Southeast Side Violated Residents’ Civil Rights: Federal Officials