Feds sue New Berlin over denied affordable housing projectThe U.S. Justice Department is suing the Waukesha County community of New Berlin, over an affordable housing development that was blocked last year.
By: Chuck Quirmbach, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
NEW BERLIN, Wis. -- The U.S. Justice Department is suing the Waukesha County community of New Berlin, over an affordable housing development that was blocked last year.
A developer wanted to build 180 units of affordable housing in the City Center area of New Berlin, noting that some low wage employers like Walmart were nearby. The local planning commission initially approved the project, but hundreds of local residents later complained, including some who said they were worried that African-Americans or other racial minorities would move in. The plan commission then rejected the project and this year, the New Berlin common council denied a revised proposal.
The U.S. Justice Department says New Berlin has violated the Fair Housing Act, at a time when many families are in need of decent and affordable housing. Justice officials say the filing shows a history of discriminatory conduct.
Joel Gaughan is a New Berlin resident and president of the religious group SOPHIA, which pushed for the housing. He says the last year's debate was troubling, and he hopes the developer and New Berlin can get together and make a deal on the housing project. He says it's important that in a fast-growing county like Waukesha, that housing and jobs be closer together.
New Berlin's mayor and city attorney say they want time to look at the lawsuit. A founder of Concerned Citizens of New Berlin -- which led the opposition to the project -- declined to talk about the case. Laura Karvala was elected this year to the New Berlin common council.