Jul 25, 2022 - News

HUD claims city violated civil rights

Photo of a factory on a river.

Factories, sorting facilities and recycling plants along the Calumet River. Photo: Jamie Kelter Davis for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the city were accused of environmental racism last week by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Why it matters: If the city doesn't address HUD's concerns, it could risk millions of dollars in federal housing funds.

Driving the news: A leaked letter from HUD claims the city violated residents' civil rights in trying to move a metal shredder from the North Side to the Southeast Side.

  • In the letter, HUD says "the city knew the relocation would negatively impact the Southeast neighborhoods."
  • HUD says it gave the findings to Lightfoot in February, just before the city reversed course and ultimately didn't approve the shredder move.

What they're saying: "This investigation is proving what frontline communities in Chicago live with every day — the rules are written to allow only certain parts of the city to thrive, while sacrifice zones are created in communities of color," Olga Bautista, executive director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, tells Axios.

The other side: Lightfoot's office called the allegations "absolutely absurd."

  • The mayor also recently released her climate plan, which emphasizes environmental justice.

The intrigue: At the release of the climate plan, supporters from Equiticity and the NRDC offered words of support for Lightfoot's work on environmental justice, but neither responded to our inquiries on the HUD letter.

Separately, City Council just voted to push Lightfoot's office to release the report on the 2020 Little Village factory demolition that covered the neighborhood in debris.


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