City of Peoria responds to accusations of racial, sexual discrimination

HOPE Fair Housing Center sued the city this week

PEORIA, Ill. -

The city of Peoria is playing defense after being accused of racial and sexual discrimination.

 

The HOPE Fair Housing Center is suing the city, claiming it's targeting African American residents and survivors of domestic violence, leading to unwarranted evictions.

 

The group says the enforcement of Peoria's Chronic Nuisance Ordinance violates the Fair Housing Act. The Hope Center says its investigation shows the city's ordinance is not enforced equally at all homes.

 

The city calls the claims untrue and ready to defend that in court.

 

"The allegations are without foundation and without merit." Attorney for the City of Peoria, Don Leist, says.

 

The city of Peoria is firing back after the HOPE Fair Housing Center, a nonprofit fair housing advocacy group based out of Chicagoland, alleges the city is forcing landlords to evict tenants at homes the city deems chronic nuisance properties. According to the HOPE Fair Housing Center, those homes are given that characteristic after several police calls.

 

"There was a huge disparity when you looked at what was eligible for city enforcement and what was enforced and the location and the demographics against what it was enforced. There's a clear difference based on race." Anne Houghtaling, from HOPE, says.

 

The HOPE center says its investigation was prompted by complaints from local landlords and their tenants. It says that investigation revealed 12,000 homes that should have been eligible for nuisance abatement or enforcement activity by the city, but weren't because they were in predominantly white neighborhoods.

 

"There were other indications that city officials told landlords they should lock the tenant out or move the tenant our without even following an eviction process." Houghtaling explains.

 

The city says eviction is not the first measure nor does it have the power to evict residents.

 

"The allegations of the complaint is that the city treats people that rent differently than people that own and that couldn't be further from the truth. We believe that people that rent deserve to have a nice place to live and that's what we're trying to create." Leist says.

 

It's why the city says it will continue those efforts and prepare to defend them in court.

 

"The city council and the people that live here and the neighborhood associations are trying to make Peoria a better place to live." Leist says.

 

The city's legal team says the hope fair housing center asked for $500,000 to drop the lawsuit. HOPE Fair Housing says it was already going to sue, but offered the city a chance to resolve it and work with the nonprofit to address the alleged harm caused by the city.


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