Fair Housing Complaint Filed Against City's 'Aldermanic Prerogative' Practice

Craig Dellimore
November 16, 2018 - 8:17 am

WBBM Newsradio/Craig Dellimore

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The City of Chicago is facing a federal complaint for allowing aldermen veto power over affordable housing projects in their area.

Affordable housing advocates filed a federal complaint Thursday against the Aldermanic Prerogative saying the practice promotes housing discrimination by keeping low-income minorities from moving into affluent white neighborhoods. 

Although Aldermanic Prerogative is not really a law, or even written down, Katherine Walz, an attorney with the Sergeant Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, said the policy allows aldermen to block projects that might make some white neighborhoods more diverse.

"The City of Chicago was put on notice that granting aldermen veto power over the siding of affordable housing violated civil rights laws; and yet, the City of Chicago has openly and zealously continued to practice this policy of Aldermanic Prerogative," she said. 

Margaret Dillon, a leader of Neighbors for Affordable Housing on the Northwest Side, said the unwritten practice of Aldermanic Prerogative allows aldermen to block developments that might bring racial and economic diversity.

"It is foolhardy to place all planning and development decisions in the hands of a few aldermen who are elected by segregated constituencies to represent segregated wards," Dillion said.

Walz said it is illegal and the Sergeant Shriver National Center has filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development on behalf of about ten housing and community groups. HUD has authority to investigate the complaint. In cases in other cities, Walz said, HUD responded to similar complaints by requiring officials to build affordable units to resolve housing discrimination.

"On behalf of theses community organizations, the Shriver Center has filed a fair housing complaint with the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity," she said. 

Some Aldermen are also trying to end the practice.