In July 2008, a federal judge gave the green light to a fair housing discrimination lawsuit against a Long Island municipality and owners of an apartment building brought by plaintiffs claiming the defendants tried to push a core Hispanic population out of town. The plaintiffs include Hofstra Law School and Hispanic tenants of the Farmingdale, N.Y. building, who had been evicted so that their aging building could be fixed up. While that part might have been agreeable to the tenants, what they didn't find appealing was the fact that the building would be redeveloped for luxury living — along with higher rents, effectively pricing these tenants out of the "Little Latin America" neighborhood. They allege the redevelopment is a maneuver by the Village of Farmingdale to drive Hispanics (including several day laborers) away through gentrification or "upscaling." The Village denies discrimination as a motive, and the owners point to their record of having rented to Hispanic tenants for years, according to a report from Newsday.
Should the plaintiffs have to prove that the Village actually harbored a discriminatory intent in recasting the building as luxury apartments? Would it matter if the plaintiffs can show that the Village treated other aging buildings in its jurisdiction differently? Should municipalities be required or expected to take into consideration the ethnic makeup of a neighborhood before taking actions that could alter it?
What do you think?