Housing Complex Seeks Harmony, Braces for Federal Lawsuit
CHICAGO (AP) _ An apartment complex that uses quotas to maintain racial and economic balance among its tenants is braced to fight a Justice Department challenge, a lawyer for the development said Wednesday.
When a group of churches built Atrium Village in the mid-1970s, the government insisted on the quotas to keep it from becoming an all-poor, all- black project like Cabrini-Green, its neighbor to the west, said the attorney, Michael Shakman.
But now the government is threatening a lawsuit challenging the quotas, citing recent federal court decision that rejected their use at Starrett City, a private housing development in New York City.
″It’s sort of shocking that they would now, 10 years later, attack the people who are doing what they were told to do by government agencies,″ Shakman said.
″Atrium Village is a model of how you can make integration work in an inner- city neighborhood a block and half away from the most well-known, most dangerous public housing project in the U.S.,″ Shakman said.
″That’s rare, and I hate to see a project that’s succeeded in doing that come under attack by a government that required them to do it in the first place.″
The Justice Department has not filed a lawsuit against Atrium Village, said spokeswoman Deborah Burstion-Wade.
″I think the attitude has come out in cases like Starrett City that we’re opposed to any sort of quota whether it’s in employment or in housing,″ Ms. Burstion-Wade said, declining further comment.
Racial balance at Atrium Village is maintained simply by requiring that half the units be rented to black tenants and half to whites, Shakman said.
The complex is economically integrated as well, with an equal number of middle- and low-income tenants of both races, he said.
Shakman said the threatened challenge from the Justice Department stems from a pending U.S. District Court case, in which a Cabrini-Green resident who sought to move to Atrium Village in 1983 claimed her quota-based rejection amounted to unlawful discrimination.
Shakman said he was to meet Thursday with Justice Department lawyers.
The 309-unit apartment complex is owned by five churches that sought in the late 1960s to revive a section of blighted property between the massive Cabrini-Green project and the prosperous Gold Coast area on the city’s Near North Side, Shakman said.
The churches received financial assistance from the City of Chicago and the Illinois Housing Development Authority in building the apartments, he said.
They obtained rental and other subsidies for some of the units from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Shakman said.
When the development was built in the mid-1970s, all three agencies required Atrium Village to use quotas to achieve racial integration, he said.
Renters paying $372 a month for three-bedroom apartments live near families who are paid $5 a month to live in two-bedroom apartments, Shakman said.