In the 1960s, a development project funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was planned for East Poplar, then a racially and economically diverse neighborhood of Philadelphia.
Despite prior commitments, the developers with HUD’s approval changed the project to low-rent public housing in an area already highly concentrated with it.
Rather than promoting diversity, the project as newly constituted threatened to increase economic and racial segregation in Philadelphia. Further, the plan had been changed without any input from the neighborhood, and without any consideration of whether the project would violate equal protection clauses of the law.
In Shannon v. HUD, one of the Law Center’s first cases, we challenged the altered development plan, alleging that the development would have increased racial and economic segregation, and that the law act not only prohibits HUD from discriminating based on race, but in fact gives the agency the responsibility to take affirmative action against segregation.
The lawsuit was dismissed in District Court, but we won on appeal in the Third Circuit.
Shannon v. HUD set important precedent bolstering the protection of civil rights in housing discrimination cases. The case compelled HUD to begin assessing the racial impact of its projects – establishing an important distinction that fair housing statutes protected not only against intentional discrimination but also against discriminatory effects.