Is Regulating Housing Facades A Civil Rights Issue?

<p>Several communities have used ordinances to favor masonry over vinyl siding, but the practice is being challenged by a lawsuit arguing that the added cost prices out low-income minorities.</p>
June 27, 2007, 6am PDT | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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"The controversy over requiring brick on new homes is spreading locally and has entered the civil rights arena nationally.

City leaders in Columbia, Ill., heaved insults at St. Charles County two years ago, saying they didn't want their town to become a "sea of vinyl" like some places in the fast-growing Missouri county.

So the Columbia City Council found a powerful weapon in an ordinance requiring all homes in new subdivisions to have brick or stone facades. It was approved early last year.

Now, Millstadt, another Metro East community, is considering a similar ordinance.

The idea is not new. Ellisville in west St. Louis County has had an ordinance requiring the use of masonry - quietly, with little controversy - for decades.

Home builders and the vinyl industry are not taking this sitting down. In fact, a possible precedent-setting civil rights lawsuit is moving through a federal court in Texas.

The National Association of Home Builders, the NAACP and the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin are suing Kyle, Texas, an Austin suburb, over a similar brick ordinance that they say prices minorities out of the single-family housing market.

The lawsuit has serious ramifications for much of the country, including the Metro East area."

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Published on Monday, June 25, 2007 in St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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