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posted: 9/11/2013 7:22 PM

Mobile home residents sue Wheeling for discrimination

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About 50 residents of a mainly Hispanic mobile home community in Wheeling claim the village is enforcing its building code in a discriminatory manner in an effort to remove them from their homes.

According to their complaint filed against Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, the Fox Point mobile home development along Milwaukee Avenue experienced flooding during an April storm, leading the village to condemn homes based on code violations.

But the lawsuit alleges that the code violations were levied not because of flooding damage, which the suit describes as minimal, but because the majority of the homeowners are Hispanic.

Under Wheeling's building code, if a building has been damaged to the point where it cannot be repaired for less than 50 percent of its value it must be rebuilt or replaced. But the code gives homeowners six months to begin repairs and 18 months to compete them.

When Fox Point residents applied for building permits to address the damage to their homes, they were denied, according to the suit.

"The building code is selectively enforced against Hispanic homeowners to eliminate their mobile-home community," says the suit, which alleges the village's actions constitute a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

According to the suit, Wheeling's overall population is 24.2 percent Hispanic, while Fox Point is 88 percent Hispanic.

The suit, filed by Chicago attorney Kelli Dudley, seeks an injunction to keep the village from removing the people from their homes and asks for a jury trial.

Village President Dean Argiris defended the village's actions Wednesday.

"The village has acted appropriately throughout this matter and has worked very closely with FEMA and (Cook) county to carry out all of our codes," he said. "For them to say that what we did was discriminatory is absolutely ludicrous."

Argiris said the village made an effort to help the residents of Fox Point after the storm by working with the Wheeling Park District and the Red Cross to make sure they had somewhere safe to stay.

"We're a very diverse community and we treat everybody equally in this community," he said. "For these people to say this is a race thing is ridiculous."

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