Civil rights complaint seeks to stop cities from concentrating low-income housing in high-poverty neighborhoods

April 14, 2015
A civil rights attorney based in Washington, D.C., thinks he has the method for forcing changes in how and where St. Paul and Minneapolis locate low-income housing.
     Michael Allen did not file a lawsuit against the cities and their joint Housing Finance Board. Instead, he filed a complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that, if successful, could put tens of millions of dollars in block grant and other federal poverty grants at risk.
     That’s not the result that Allen and the local complainants — the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing and three Minneapolis neighborhood organizations — necessarily want. Rather, the groups bringing the complaint want the two cities to stop over-concentrating low-income housing in already impoverished neighborhoods. Doing so, even while assuring the federal government that they are not, is in violation of both the federal Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, the complaint says.