Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation

PETITIONER:Village of Arlington Heights
RESPONDENT:Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation
LOCATION:Village of Arlington Heights

DOCKET NO.: 75-616
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 429 US 252 (1977)
ARGUED: Oct 13, 1976
DECIDED: Jan 11, 1977

F. Willis Caruso – Argued the cause for respondents
Jack M. Siegel – Argued the cause for petitioners

Facts of the case

The Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. (MHDC) contracted with the Village of Arlington Heights (“Arlington”) to build racially integrated low-and moderate-income housing. When MHDC applied for the necessary zoning permits, authorizing a switch from a single-to a multiple-family classification, Arlington’s planning commission denied the request. Acting on behalf of itself and several minority members, MHDC challenged Arlington’s denial as racially discriminatory. On appeal from an adverse district court decision, the Court of Appeals reversed and the Supreme Court granted Arlington certiorari.


Was Arlington Height’s denial of a zoning request, necessary for the creation of low-and moderate-income housing, racially discriminatory in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause?

Media for Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – October 13, 1976 in Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – January 11, 1977 in Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 75-616, Village of Arlington Heights against Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation would be announced by Mr. Justice Powell.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

The respondent in this case the Housing Corporation decides to build in the Village of Arlington Heights, Illinois a townhouse complex for low-and moderate-income tenants.

The Village and suburb of Chicago is own only for single family homes.

Its population is predominantly white.

The respondent negotiated a purchase agreement covering a 15-acre site upon which it proposed to construct the project.

But the Village authorities after public hearings refused to rezone the property from single family to multi-family classification.

The respondent joins our individuals instituted this suit in an Illinois District Court.

They alleged that their refusal to rezone was racially discriminatory, violating the Fourteenth Amendment and federal Fair Housing Act.

At the following trial, the District Court had a judgment for the Village but the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed.

Looking solely to the ultimate effect, the Circuit Court viewed the denial to rezone as discriminatory.

In Washington against Davis decided last time, we held that official action is not invalid solely because it results in a racially disproportionate effect.

We held that proof of a discriminatory intent is required to show a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

In this case, the District Court found that the refusal to rezone was based on legitimate land use considerations and was not racially motivated.

The Court of Appeals agreed with this finding, but nevertheless held that the effect of the refusal was determinative as this is not in a Court with our decision in Washington against Davis, we reserved the decision of the Court of Appeals.

We remand the case for consideration of the fair housing claim, a claim not resolved by the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Justice Marshall joined by Mr. Justice Brennan has filed an opinion concurring in thought and dissenting in thought.

Mr. Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion.

Mr. Justice Stevens took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Powell.