Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Corp.


Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago, passed an ordinance that disallowed the construction of low-income, multi-family buildings. The Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. applied for a permit and was consequently denied because of the ordinance.  The MHDC then sued the city.


Whether the denial of the construction of multi-family, low-income housing unit a violation of the equal protection clause.


No, the ordinance is constitutional, reversed and remanded.  The court noted that there may be a racially discriminatory impact of the ordinance.  However, the court could not find any intent for discrimination in the passage of such ordinance.  The court applied the “disparate impact” test to determine the absence of intent in this case.  The court wrote that in order to determine intent they must use a “fact-based” balancing analysis of the case’s history, the impact of the decision, and the circumstances and events leading up to the decision.  Also, the court stated that the “legislative history” behind the ordinance should be examined.

In using the aforementioned test, the court stated that he ordinance specifically did not discriminate on the basis of race because of how it had been applied in the past.   The specific development at issue was placed in the middle of a residential neighborhood, while others were allowed to exist in corporate districts.  The court found this was the crux of their non-discriminatory purpose.

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