City Given Okay to Tear Down Property

June 2, 2009
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Can a city condemn an apartment complex that is so rundown that it is considered to be a public nuisance? That question was put to the test in a recent case.

The lawsuit arose after Joliet, Illinois attempted to condemn an apartment complex. One of the owners of the complex contended that the Fair Housing Act (FHA) prevented condemnation of the complex. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) claimed that federal law preempted state and local law, and the complex could not be condemned. HUD maintained that the city did not have the power to condemn federally subsidized housing, no matter how rundown the building, no matter how large the remaining supply of housing for low-income tenants, and no matter the use to which the city would put the land. However, the court noted that the while FHA forbids discrimination in housing programs it does not say that any housing development has the right to continued existence. “Just as with Section 8, federal regulations implementing FHA cover the demolition of housing projects.”

An Illinois appellate court upheld the district court’s judgment in favor of the city to move ahead with its plans [City of Joiliet, Illinois v. New West, L.P. and New Bluff, L.P., April 2009].