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United States v. Starrett City Associates

    Citation. 840 F.2d 1096.

    Brief Fact Summary. Starrett City Associates has a policy to maintain a desired racial balance upon tenants in its apartment to promote racial integration. People are selected for the units based on income race and ethnicity. The United States brought action against Starrett for violating the Fair Housing Act of Title VIII.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.  A race-conscious affirmative action plan does not violate Title VIII of the constitution as long as it is only temporary and has a defined goal and is based on a history of racial imbalance

    Facts.  Starrett operates one of the largest housing developments in New York comprising of 46 high rise buildings with 5,881 apartments. In order to maintain integration Starrett has a racial quota of 64% white, 22 % black, and 8 % Hispanic. They claim this is to prevent what is called white flight or tipping of white residents which would then result in predominantly minority complex.  When a person applies for an apartment they are told that no apartments are available and to fill out an information card that has income race family size and ethnicity on its questionnaire. The application is place in an active folder and when a unit comes available, the complex usually puts an applicant of similar background in the unit. In 1979 a group of black applicants brought suit and settled. A consent order was entered where Starrett was required to make additional 35 units available for each year for a five-year period to black and minority applicants. After that action the government pursed further suit to determine the constitutionality of Starrett’s actions.

    Issue. Whether tenant procedures that promote a certain racial balance by denying people based on his or her race in apartment buildings for the purpose of integration violates Title VIII Fair Housing Act

    Held. Yes. Starrett’s allocation procedures that deny a person solely on race, regardless of the motivation, produce a discriminatory effect. Both housing practices motivated by a discriminatory purpose and have disproportionately affect on minorities are unlawful under the Fair Housing Act. Starrett argues that the purpose behind the statute is not only to prevent discrimination but to promote residential integration which is the purpose of the plan. However the only way such a plan will be constitutional if there is; a history of racial imbalance, the plan is temporary, there is a defined goal, and the plan dictates to increase minority membership. Here this was a permanent plan, or a plan with no real ending, that limits the amount of minorities in the units that have no history of racial imbalance.

    Dissent. Justice Jon O. Newman: The express language of the Fair Housing Act does not state that it should apply to integration plans, but to bar perpetuation of segregation. Starrett is not promoting segregation but promoting integration. A plan made so all races can live next to one another should not qualify as being discriminatory. This plan is one of the most successful integrated Housing projects in America and should not be destroyed. 

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    Discussion. Race is not always an inappropriate consideration; however a company is not allowed to use rigid racial quotas for an indefinite duration to promote integration.

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