The ACLU of Wisconsin has long been concerned with fair housing in Wisconsin, time and again challenging racist practices, redlining and attacks on affordable housing.

NAACP, et al. v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co.

In 1990, the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP, Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee and the ACLU represented eight plaintiffs in a lawsuit against American Family for insurance redlining. There was evidence that the insurance company discriminatorily overcharged or denied coverage in predominantly Black neighborhoods in Southeast Wisconsin. The plaintiffs won on appeal in 1992 and reached a settlement agreement with American Family in 1995, a landmark case for applying the Fair Housing Act to insurance.

State Fin. Bank v. City of South Milwaukee

The City of South Milwaukee planned to raze the Lake Bluff Apartments, integrated affordable housing for Lake Bluff residents, at least one-third of which were racial minorities. In 2003, Lake Bluff residents represented by the ACLU, Legal Action of Wisconsin and Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee joined the lawsuit against South Milwaukee to protect the apartments. The case went to trial in federal court on July 13, 2009, and the jury found that South Milwaukee’s efforts to tear down affordable housing would discriminate against renters of color and renters with disabilities. Among other stipulations, the 2011 settlement agreement ensured that the complex would remain standing with its 25 affordable housing units and 31 market rate units until 2025.

Thomas v. Shorewood Hills

The Village of Shorewood Hills, outside Madison, sought to block construction of an affordable tax-credit housing development on the side of a vacant office building known as Pyare Square. After the Village Plan Commission approved the project, the Village Board rejected it in February 2010, apparently in response to complaints from citizens about the effect of low-income housing and renters having “different values.” The board’s rejection may have been motivated by impermissible considerations and will have a discriminatory effect on racial minorities. In rejecting this housing, the Village Board made housing unavailable on the basis of race in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

The ACLU of Wisconsin worked with a neighborhood plaintiff to advocate for family-supporting housing units in future developments and for Shorewood Hills to remain under a Housing and Urban Development compliance agreement for future affordable units.