A Zion city ordinance does not violate the federal Fair
Housing Act, despite the assertions of a landlord the ordinance effectively
targets apartment buildings with large numbers of black and Hispanic residents,
a federal judge has ruled.
Judge John W. Darrah filed a memorandum opinion and order on
Jan. 23 in Chicago, rejecting a complaint brought by TBS Group, LLC, based in
Round Lake Beach, to challenge a residential rental inspection permit fee
schedule ordinance the Zion City Council adopted on July 7, 2015. The ordinance
requires landlords to pay a fee, obtain a rental certificate and make homes
available for inspection. Fees for buildings with more than 132 units are $75
per unit, but not to exceed $10,000 per year.
TBS said the fee structure is discriminatory in nature and also is enforced
selectively against landlords whose tenants are African-American or Latino,
noting that while the city’s population is 31 percent black, 27 percent Latino
and 48.9 percent white, the rental population is 39.3 percent black, 14.p
percent Latino and 39 percent white.
The complaint also targeted the city’s comprehensive plan,
which places multi-family residential property “almost exclusively in a
specific area,” per Darrah’s opinion. “This area is next to industrial areas
and remote from green space,” which TBS argued would contribute to racial
discrimination by limiting housing options.
The city moved to dismiss the complaint, in part arguing TBS
was not an aggrieved party under FHA rules.
In his analysis, Darrah wrote the ordinance is neutral on
its face, and although TBS alleged city “officials, at some point in the past,
indicated that they did not want to increase the number of rental units that
would be rented by African-Americans … the complaint does not indicate when plaintiff
was told this or what connection it may have to the change in the ordinance.”
Darrah also said TBS does not claim it is the only landlord
with a Zion property that falls under the ordinance, which he noted “equally
applies to any rental properties and is targeted at ensuring compliance with
health and safety codes.”
He further wrote TBS failed to allege facts supporting its
belief the city only enforces the ordinance selectively, as well as to support
the claim the comprehensive plan “was created and/or is being carried out with
a discriminatory intent or purpose.”
In considering the racial demographics cited in the
complaint, Darrah said TBS neither explained how the ordinance
disproportionately affects a certain race nor offered information about the
demographics of its own tenant base. He further noted TBS “has not alleged that
any of its properties will be moved or that it will be required to stop renting
to any person on the basis of origin, race, or color because of the
TBS also argued the ordinance violates its rights to help
potential African-American and Latino tenants exercise their FHA rights, but
Darrah said the complaint does not specify if that allegation refers to the
ordinance or the comprehensive plan, and further failed to allege actual
interference by the city; neither did it allege the city knew “almost all of plaintiff’s
tenants are Latino or African-American.”
Darrah granted the city’s motion to dismiss without
prejudice and allowed TBS 30 days to file an amended complaint.
TBS was represented in the action by attorney Kelli A.
Dudley, of Chicago.
The city of Zion was defended by the firm of Ancel Glink
Diamond Bush DiCianni & Krafthefer, of Chicago.