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ENGLISH v. TOWN OF HUNTINGTON

July 2, 1970

Aldena ENGLISH et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWN OF HUNTINGTON et al., Defendants


Travia, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: TRAVIA

TRAVIA, District Judge.

This action was brought by an unincorporated association, the Huntington Township Committee on Human Relations ("HTCHR"), and individual plaintiffs, all displacees from an urban renewal area in the defendant Town of Huntington (the "Town") by the time of the writing of this decision. The complaint is framed as a class action by the plaintiffs on behalf of black and Puerto Rican residents of Huntington who have allegedly been deprived of their rights in connection with the urban renewal program and other activities of the Town.

 The complaint sets forth three causes of action. The first concerns the alleged failure of the Town and its officials (the "local defendants") and officials of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (the "Federal defendants") to assure adequate relocation housing for those residents of the urban renewal area who have been displaced as a result of the project. The second attacks the issuance of general search warrants to building code inspectors for use in low-rent minority group neighborhoods of the Town. The third challenges the Town's zoning ordinance as denying the equal protection of the laws to minority groups because it has the purpose and tendency to exclude them from the Town by preventing the construction of housing which they can afford.

 Both the Federal and the local defendants have moved to dismiss the first cause of action. The local defendants have also moved to dismiss the third cause of action. These motions attack both the jurisdiction of this Court and the merits of the complaint.

 Although the complaint leaves much to conjecture and inference, for the reasons stated below the motions to dismiss must be denied at this time without prejudice to renewal during the trial. The defendants may move at the trial after the Court has heard the plaintiffs' case with respect to the issues of whether administrative remedies have been adequately exhausted, the sufficiency of the size of the class which plaintiffs purport to represent, the adequacy of the proof of a denial of equal protection of the laws, the standing of the unincorporated association, HTCHR, and any other appropriate trial motions.

 The first cause of action, around which most of the dispute has centered, substantially alleges the following:

 In an application for a grant contract from the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), the Town of Huntington established an urban renewal project which provided for the building of 56 middle-income apartments on "Site A" and for 127 middle-income units (later expanded to 300 units) on "Site B" within the Town. Forty low-rent units have also been built. After HUD's approval in 1966, the Town and HUD executed a capital grant contract which included a provision by which the Town (by its Local Public Authority ("LPA")) was required to provide decent and safe relocation housing in the renewal area or another area, with equivalent facilities at rentals within the means of displaced families, reasonably accessible to relocatees' places of work, and equal in number to the number of displaced individuals and families. *fn1" The Town also agreed to follow HUD policies, Federal statutory requirements, and regulations of HUD for urban renewal, including the Urban renewal Handbook, RHA 7207.1.

 It is claimed that about 174 families were displaced, of whom more than 50% were members of the minority groups represented by plaintiffs, and that the majority of the latter group of families are of low income. Families displaced by the project, the complaint alleges, were unable to obtain adequate relocation housing; that forty units of low-rent housing (public housing) were built with the project, including ten for the elderly, but this number is inadequate for the 174 displaced families; and that the middle-income housing built on sites A and B is beyond the price range of the displaced families.

 It is further alleged that racial discrimination in the private housing market, which this Court recognizes exists, prevents the minority group displacees from securing adequate relocation housing within the Town. It is alleged that because of their race, color and origin, plaintiffs have been effectively restricted to securing housing in neighborhoods which have both a high percentage of minority group population and shortages of adequate housing.

 It is also claimed that approximately 70 nonwhite and Puerto Rican displaced families now live in relocation housing within the Town which is below the standard for relocation set by the capital grant contract between the LPA and HUD; that many now live in overcrowded apartments and pay higher rents and paid higher purchase prices than are paid for comparable dwellings by whites; that because of the project, fewer low income units of adequate standards now exist in the Town than before the project was initiated; and that many of the displacees have left the Town in order to find housing.

 The Federal and local defendants allegedly failed to take affirmative action to insure adequate relocation for plaintiffs' class, a violation of defendants' duties under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1455(c) and the HUD Urban Renewal Handbook, RHA 7207.1. This failure to act, it is alleged, has also deprived plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution and of the equal right to hold and lease property secured under the Thirteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C.A. § 1982. In addition, plaintiffs allege that the failure to provide adequate relocation housing facilities was intended to force nonwhites and Puerto Ricans out of the Town because of their race in violation of their rights to the equal protection of the laws and to hold and lease property.

 Finally, plaintiffs allege that they have exhausted their administrative remedies since the association plaintiff filed a formal complaint with HUD in July 1967 to which they have not yet received any reply. The complaint does not allege that any individual plaintiff has registered a complaint with any of the defendants.

 Plaintiffs attack the relocation program on the ground that they have been denied the qual protection of the laws in its execution. They also seek judicial review of unspecified administrative determinations ...


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