394 F.Supp. 1028 (E.D.Mich. 1975), Civ. A. 38757, Zuch v. Hussey

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 38757
Citation:394 F.Supp. 1028
Party Name:Zuch v. Hussey
Case Date:March 14, 1975
Court:United States District Courts, 6th Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 1028

394 F.Supp. 1028 (E.D.Mich. 1975)

Vincent ZUCH et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

John H. HUSSEY et al., Defendants.

Civ. A. No. 38757.

United States District Court, D. Michigan

March 14, 1975.

        As Amended April 28, 1975.

Page 1029

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1030

        George Hogg, Jr., William C. Potter, Jr., Alphonso R. Harper, Ernest Levin, Detroit, Mich., for certain defendants.

        Theodore M. Rosenberg, Flint, Mich., John F. Burns, Detroit, Mich., for plaintiffs.

        MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

        KEITH, District Judge.

        This is an action brought by residents of several communities in Northwest Detroit to seek a remedy for certain alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. The matter is presently before the Court on the plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.

        The hearing on this motion lasted approximately ten (10) weeks, during which time the Court heard testimony from over fifty (50) witnesses. More than ninety (90) exhibits were admitted into evidence. After careful consideration of the matter and pursuant to the findings of facts and conclusions of law, the Court grants the plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.

        INTRODUCTION

        Perhaps the single most significant factor operating in this case is the racial fear of the white residents of the areas involved. At times, this fear has become so irrational and pervasive that it reflects a hysterical community psyche. Fears which reach this proportion perhaps reflect accurately on racial relations in our city, but such fears alone cannot be the basis for finding a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

        Throughout the ten (10) weeks of testimony, the defendants made several allegations about the plaintiffs' motives in bringing this action. One charge was that the plaintiffs were seeking to prevent further entry of blacks into their neighborhood. Another was that they were seeking to put certain real estate agencies out of business because they were dealing with blacks. The defendants sought earnestly to elicit testimony from the plaintiffs' witnesses and from their own witnesses to support these allegations. While the Court is of the opinion that violations of the Fair Housing Act were shown by the plaintiffs, it also believes that there was some evidence which supported the allegations of the defendants.

        Witnesses testified that if their communities became significantly black, they would move. There was testimony about the initial reaction of residents to the entry of the first black family into the Emerson Community. Frantic meetings were described in which racial hatred was vented and schemes were suggested to physically remove the black family from the community. There was also evidence that the officers of the Emerson Community Homeowners Association (ECHO) 1 used their organization's newspaper to recommend certain favorite real estate agencies to their readers. There was also an admission by Vincent Zuch, one of the most active plaintiffs, that he was 'at war with the real estate industry.' This Court does not condone any of this. It is mentioned only to show the complexity of the issues involved.

        The Court also observed that many of the witnesses had had little or no day to day interpersonal contact with their black neighbors. As a result, some of

Page 1031

them exaggerated the significance of certain activities which they observed. 2

        In part, these witnesses are victims of their own isolation, prejudice and ignorance. Their fears are products of the kind of racial isolation the Fair Housing Act was designed to end. The Court has taken all of this into consideration in reaching its decision.

        I. FINDINGS OF FACTS

        After considering the evidence offered by both sides at the hearing on the plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law. 3

        A. THE AREA

        This action involves an area of Northwest Detroit which lies west of predominately black neighborhoods and east and south of predominately white neighborhoods. It is bounded on the east by Southfield, on the north by Seven Mile Road, and on the west by Heyden Street between Seven Mile Road and Six Mile Road and thereafter by Evergreen Road. The Southern boundary, generally, is a line running through Acacia Street. Approximately six thousand five hundred (6,500) families live in the area.

        Within this area, there are several sub-communities. Perhaps the most important, to this action, is the Emerson Community whose residents are principally responsible for this law suit. Also included in this area are North Rosedale Park and Rosedale Park (also called South Rosedale Park and South Rosedale).

        The plaintiffs produced ample evidence at the hearing to support their contention that the area in question was a racially transitional neighborhood, commonly referred to as a 'changing neighborhood.' To the layman, either expression is used and understood to mean that blacks are moving into an area. United States v. Mintzes, D.C., 304 F.Supp. 1305, 1311 (1969). The social scientist, when discussing a racially changing neighborhood, also starts from the premise that a neighborhood is in transition when white families are being replaced by black families in existing dwellings. Dr. Frances Cousens, who qualified as an expert for the plaintiffs, 4 testified that a racially changing

Page 1032

neighborhood is a residential area which is beginning to experience the entry of non-white families. In the Court's opinion, the area of Northwest Detroit, defined by the plaintiffs in their complaint, is a racially transitional neighborhood.

        Prior to 1971, there were no minority families living in the Emerson Community and no more than three lived in the Rosedale Communities. The first black family moved into Emerson in 1971, purchasing a house on Edinborough Road. The present racial composition of the area is estimated to be between ten (10) and twenty (20) per cent black. The other two (2) communities have also experienced an influx of blacks, although somewhat less dramatically than what has occurred in the Emerson Community. While the total number has decreased, there has continued to be some movement of white families into the neighborhoods. There is no questioning, however, the contention that Northwest Detroit has undergone a striking shift in its racial composition in the last four (4) years.

        In this context, the continued pace of such racial change in this area is critical. Areas in transition seem to experience rapid population turnover which in large part results from 'panic selling,' Barrick v. City of Gary, D.C., 354 F.Supp. 126 (1973). The problem of panic selling arises where white residents succumb to perceived pressures to move out because blacks are beginning to enter the neighborhood. According to the Court in Barrick, supra, at 135, the pressure to move stems from evils associated with the entry of black families: crime, overcrowding, depressed property values, and the fear of being 'left behind.'

        The testimony taken at the hearing indicates that there are white residents of Northwest Detroit who do in fact correlate relate the entry of black families with the incidence of lower class social pathology. From their testimony, there emerges the following psychological equation: The quality of life in a community diminishes with the entry of minority families, particularly black families. It is there fears, and this action that the defendants in this action are alleged to have exploited or attempted to exploit.

        Dr. Cousens described the problem well when she testified at the hearing:

        'I believe that in the minds of most people, they perceive the function of the real estate broker as being instrumental in producing change in the neighborhood, a change which increases their own apprehensions and their own instability . . . The first black family entering an all-white neighborhood tends to pay more for the housing than would be paid by white families purchasing the identical house. Then because of the fears generated, the perception of white residents in the area causes a great many white people to put up a great many houses for sale within a very short period of time. This flooding of the market tends to have a negative effect on the price stabilization of the housing in that area. When the area becomes predominantly black, then you again achieve price stabilization in the area. You may also achieve social and psychological stability when a neighborhood becomes black because what you have done is re-segregated the neighborhood and the process of change, of transition, is already in the past.'

        Compare, United States v. Mitchell, D.C., 335 F.Supp. 1004, 1005 (1971).

        The accelerated pace of racial change resulting from panic selling is evidenced by the history of racial segregation in

Page 1033

other areas of Detroit. Patricia Becker, an expert for plaintiffs, 5 described the manner in which the black population has spread toward the Detroit city limits. 6 She testified that the black population has been contained until recently; that black neighborhoods have spread block-by-block; that there has been virtually no permanent integration in Detroit; and that the current rate of movement of the black population is about one (1) mile every three (3) years. 7

        The issue which arises at this point, therefore, is not whether the process by which white families are replaced by black families is either irrational or inevitable, as well it might be. The real issue in this litigation is whether the real estate industry should be allowed to enter into the process and, for commercial advantage, artificially hasten or at least accelerate the rate of population turnover...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP