HUD charges Arlingon Park Race Track, Churchill Downs, with violating federal Fair Housing Act

Owners and operators of Arlington Park Race Track charged in provision of backstretch housing to families with children

Wheaton, Illinois, September 1, 2005  -- Today, HOPE announces that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has charged Arlington Park Racecourse, LLC, and Churchill Downs, Inc., with violating the Fair Housing Act by restricting racetrack workers with children to housing that consists of overcrowded single-room units with no private bathrooms, no running water or air conditioning, while offering workers without children the option to live in housing that provides these amenities.  The discriminatory housing assignment practice violates the familial status provision of the federal Fair Housing Act.

HUD in its "charge" indicated that HOPE "established all the elements of their prima facie case of discrimination in the provision of housing on the basis of familial status, by making housing unavailable to families with children, by offering housing with different and discriminatory terms and conditions, and by publishing such policies to prospective tenants and the trainers who pay deposits on the backstretch units."  HOPE has also "established a prima facie case of unlawful steering on the basis of familial status."

Executive Director of HOPE Fair Housing Center, Bernard J. Kleina, said, "The treatment of employees with children at Arlington Park is completely unacceptable.  Can you imagine living in one room that is 10' x 12' with your spouse and two or three children, and all of your belongings with no running water, no toilet, no shower, no air conditioning and no kitchen?  At least employees without children have running water, a toilet, a shower and air conditioning in their rooms.  This inhumane treatment of families must end.  Forced by HOPE's complaint and pressure from the Arlington Backstretch Coordinating Committee, Arlington Park has begun to build a few new apartments, but it's like the management throwing a life preserver to only a few when they have enough for everyone."

Highlights of the charge of discrimination include the following:

  • Refusal to Rent

Arlington has specifically refused to rent any of the units in backstretch buildings 4-8, or building 1, to families with minor children.  Only adults may occupy those buildings.  Arlington's practice is, on its face, an outright discriminatory refusal to rent.  In addition, because of their familial status, backstretch workers are then "steered" to specific buildings that Arlington has designated for families with children.

At the very inception of the rental transaction, and as a precondition to receiving housing, backstretch families with children were forced to accept housing with markedly different and discriminatory terms and conditions, including the following:

Differences in Treatment on the Basis of Familial Status


"A significant difference between the housing provided to families with children residing in "family" Dorms 2 and 3 in 2004, and that provided to individuals without children in "adult" Dorms 4-8, resulted from the fact that units in Dorms 2-3 do not contain private bathrooms with showers, as do units in Buildings 4-8.

Interviews with witnesses living in "family" dorms revealed that women tenants feared trips to the bathroom at night, where drunken men often loitered.  They also reported having to use the communal bathrooms to wash dishes.  Individuals living in the "adult" dorms, where families with children are not permitted to live, were free to use their bathrooms at night without fear for their safety and had private bathrooms and sinks where they could wash their dishes.

As a result of interviews with tenants who have children, HOPE discovered that many families use buckets at night, rather than risk going to the community bathrooms.  Each bathroom serves more than 115 persons.

            Occupancy Loads

A significant difference between the housing provided in Dorms 2 and 3, and that provided to individuals without children residing in Dorms 1, 3 and 4-8 in the backstretch, was that families with children were housed in much more crowded conditions than were individuals without children.

Units in "family" Dorm 2, averaged 4.2 persons per unit in 2004, and contained approximately 142 sq. ft. of floor area, which means that there was an average of 34 sq. ft. of floor area per person in each unit.

Units in Dorms 4-8 averaged approximately 1.7 persons per unit in 2004, and measured approximately 140 sq. ft. (not including the bathroom), which means that there was an average of 82 sq. ft. of floor area per person in each unit, or more than double that enjoyed by the average family with children in the backstretch.        

          Air Conditioning

Another difference between the housing provided to families with children in "family" Dorms 2 and 3, and that provided to persons without children living in "adult" Dorms 4-8, is that units in Dorms 4-8 have wall air conditioners provided by Arlington Park at no charge to the residents, while persons residing in Dorms 2-3 must obtain their own window air conditioners at their own expense." 

            Discriminatory Statements

The investigation revealed that Arlington unabashedly and regularly published its policy that restricts families with children to "family' Dorms 2 and 3 to the backstretch workers, the trainers paying security deposits on the rooms, the racetrack housing coordinator, other key staff and even" HOPE Fair Housing Center "and other members of the Arlington Backstretch Coordinating Committee, on which" HOPE staff members "served."

HUD summarily dismissed Arlington Park's defenses with regard to safety, untimely filing of HUD Complaint, Standing and an earlier Consent Decree.

Walt Herrs, a member of the Arlington Backstretch Coordinating Committee said, "It is the hope of the Arlington Backstretch Coordinating Committee that HUD's charge of discrimination will motivate Arlington Park to provide new housing for all families and workers by the start of the 2006 racing season.  Employees and their families, who have devoted so much of their lives to making Arlington Park a world-class race course, deserve better; and we're going to make sure they get it."

HOPE Fair Housing Center is represented by Jeffrey L. Taren of Kinoy, Taren and Geraghty, P.C., Chicago, Illinois.  (312) 663-5210.