$100 Million Coming from HUD to Disperse Low-Income Units, Rebuild Some Projects

A landmark suit alleging, a history of discriminatory housing practices in Minneapolis has been settled with the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development agreeing to pump $100 million into low-income housing throughout the Twin Cities.

Under the agreement, intended to reverse racially segregated pockets of poverty that began in the 1950's, 770 housing units will be replaced. The 350 unit Sumner Field Housing project on the North Side, one of the most economically depressed areas in t he city, will be razed and rebuilt.

The settlement is the result of a suit by the Minneapolis Legal Aid Society and the NAACP. It includes an agreement from HUD to issue 900 new Section 8 housing certificates, which allow renters to pay a maximum of 30 percent of their income for rent. HU D also will provide funding for "mobility counseling" for eligible residents.

The replacement housing is expected to change the distribution of public housing fundamentally in the Twin Cities. It will scatter low-income housing units throughout Minneapolis and the suburbs over the next five years.

"This is a significant event in the life of our community," said Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, who met in January with HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros. "It represents one giant step toward dissolving the concentrations of poverty in Minneapolis, and addressing the related urban problems," as reported in the January 14, Minneapolis Star Tribune.

City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes, whose ward encompasses the Summer-Olson and Glenwood-Lyndale housing projects, parts of which will be rehabilitated or demolished, also was emphatic about the case's significance.

"This is the most important thing that's happened in the Fifth Ward in north Minneapolis in the last 30 years," she said. "This presents a real opportunity to rebuild north Minneapolis."

The focus of the HUD agreement is to relocate low-income minority group members living in inner-city areas where they are concentrated. "We know that poverty by itself doesn't cause urban problems" Sayles Belton said. "It's the concentration...that eve ntually strangles those neighborhoods economically, making it impossible for residents to have access to jobs, good schools, health care, transportation. "These are living conditions that can, and too often do, foster hopelessness, despair and antisocia l behavior."

Officials said the agreement is unique in that it involves both sides in a lawsuit - Legal Aid Lawyers on one side and lawyers for the city and HUD on the other - reaching an accord based on "similar values."

In its final stages, the deal was brokered among Sayles Belton, Cherryhomes, Cisneros and U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo. "This is a major step forward for the city," Sabo told the Star Tribune.

The class-action suit was filed in 1992 by Lucy Hollman, a single mother and longtime resident of the North Side projects. Some sites such as Sumner Field, house 98 percent minority residents.

Her suit charged city, state and federal housing agencies with choosing to confine family public housing projects to areas of high concentrations of minority members since the 1940's and 50's.