Darien, CT – Justice Department Continues Housing Investigation

In September of 2010, word came that the U.S. Department of Justice was investigating the Town of Darien for possible violations of the Fair Housing Act.

Four months earlier, documents showed, the DOJ’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section had sent a letter to First Selectman Dave Campbell announcing that an inquiry into Darien’s inclusionary zoning regulations was under way.

Though details remain scarce about the exact scope of that investigation, a department spokeswoman confirmed last week that it remains ongoing, and correspondences between the DOJ and the town show that investigators have sought additional records from Darien as recently as May.

All of which begs the question: when — and how — will it end?

What It’s All About

In the DOJ’s initial letter, the department said that it was “interested in understanding the reasons why the Town adopted Section 586 of the Regulations, entitled ‘Priority Populations.'”

Darien’s inclusionary zoning regulations, approved in 2009 by the Planning and Zoning Commission, require new multifamily developments and subdivisions of five or more houses to set aside at least 12 percent of their units as affordable (“below-market-rate”).

The “priority populations” clause highlighted by the DOJ — and subsequently replaced by P&Z in November — established certain town-centric categories of applicants for those units who would be given preference over others. The list included local first responders, those employed by the town or school system, and various classes of people who work, live, or have previously lived in Darien.

But in a town whose population is 94 percent white, such a residency policy could potentially run afoul the FHA by making it exceptionally difficult for those of minority status to access affordable housing. The act forbids housing bias on the basis of race, color, national origin, and other protected categories.

Read more at Darien Patch

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About Bob Voelker

Head of the Munsch Hardt (Dallas law firm) Hospitality & Mixed Use Development Group, and former developer of affordable housing. I'm i
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