By Phillip Tegeler & Michael Sarbanes (Next American City, September 2005).
Excerpt: THIS PAST JANUARY, A FEDERAL JUDGE in Baltimore, Marvin Garbis, issued a major housing desegregation ruling that explores the ways in which many American metropolitan areas have become—and stay—so racially and economically segregated. The lawsuit, Thompson v. HUD, was filed by the Maryland ACLU more than ten years earlier, on behalf of a class of African-American public housing residents in Baltimore. Thompson challenged the government’s policy of socially engineering the ghetto: the plaintiffs claimed that the city and housing authority acted in concert with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) over many decades to create a deeply segregated system of public housing, one in which project siting decisions were largely driven by the desire to avoid community opposition in white neighborhoods. Attorneys were already preparing for the case in the early-1990s, but expedited their filing of it when the Baltimore city government demolished a high-rise public housing development and made plans to locate replacement housing in neighborhoods with similar levels of segregation. In its decision, the court did not find the city and local housing authority liable, but instead focused responsibility squarely on HUD, which had both the power and duty to provide housing choices for low-income African American residents outside of segregated, high poverty zones in the city.