On July 27, 1992, fourteen minority families and the NAACP filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, the Minneapolis Community Development Agency, and the city of Minneapolis.
The plaintiffs, represented by the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis, sought injunctive relief, claiming that the defendants' administration of Minneapolis public housing programs created and perpetuated racial segregation. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that public housing in Minneapolis was located, built, and operated under a longstanding policy of de jure racial segregation dating back to the 1930s, and that the defendants failed to remedy this segregation. For a detailed account of the origins of this suit and the history of Minneapolis public housing policy, see: Timothy L. Thompson, Promoting Mobility and Equal Opportunity: Hollman v. Cisneros
, 5-SPG J. Affordable Housing & Community Dev. L. 237 (1996).
On July 5, 1994, the District Court (Judge James M. Rosenbaum) certified a class of all minority households participating in or on the wait list for public housing and section 8 voucher programs.
Three years into this case, and after two years of negotiations and extensive public hearings, the parties settled the lawsuit by signing a consent decree. The decree's terms are encompassed in an order, entered by the District Court (Judge Rosenbaum) on April 20, 1995. The agreement's stated purpose was:
[T]o set out a series of actions to be taken by Defendants which will promote equal housing opportunity, expand and maximize geographic choice in assisted housing, and encourage racial integration, by (1) deconcentrating racially concentrated public housing projects, (2) improving living conditions in remaining family public housing units, (3) relocating public housing units to areas outside of minority concentrations, (4) improving administration of the Section 8 Existing Housing program so as to remove barriers to effective choice, (5) expanding access to application opportunities for assisted housing, (6) developing means to encourage expansion of low-income housing opportunities in suburban cities in the metropolitan area, and (7) ensuring Defendants remain committed to preserving and expanding location choice and the goals of fair housing.
The consent decree contemplated a term of seven years to accomplish these goals, during which the District Court retained jurisdiction to resolve disputes between the parties. For a discussion of the implementation of the consent decree and the resultant social and political tensions, see: Ciara Carolyn Torres, Housing in the Heartland: An Examination of the Hollman v. Cisneros Consent Decree, the Politics of Racial Concentration and the Possibilities Offered by Democratic Experimentalism
, 17 Nat'l Black L.J. 98 (2003).
For several years, the parties operated under the terms of the decree with little involvement by the court. During this time, the defendants began to demolish the 770 public housing units and relocate the 770 families at the center of the lawsuit. They also provided class members with an additional 900 section 8 vouchers, and began construction of the replacement housing.
In the late 1990s, there was a rental housing shortage in Minneapolis. This unforeseen occurrence prompted the NAACP, in its capacity as individual plaintiff, to move for a preliminary injunction and a modification of the consent decree. Specifically, the NAACP asked the District Court (Judge Rosenbaum) to enjoin the defendants from continuing demolition of the remaining public housing units, and to order the defendants instead to rehabilitate the old units, thereby better serving the immediate housing needs of the class members. The District Court denied the motion, reasoning that such an injunction and modification was beyond the scope of its dispute resolution power contemplated by the parties when signing the consent decree. Shortly thereafter, the defendants demolished the remaining units.
As work under the consent decree continued, it became apparent that the defendants would need more than seven years to fulfill their obligations. Accordingly, in July 2002, the parties extended the term of the decree and the jurisdiction of the District Court until November 1, 2004. In March 2004, the parties reaffirmed this extension, and the court ordered the case to be closed on November 1, 2004, allowing petitions to reopen the case until October 1, 2006. Robert Lake - 06/29/2015