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Perspective

The Legacy of a Landmark Case for Housing Mobility

In 1995, the ACLU sued HUD on behalf of public housing tenants in Baltimore. The question Thompson v. HUD addressed remains urgent: Who gets to live where?
The demolition by implosion of Lafayette Courts in 1995 marked the end of the high-rise era in Baltimore public housing.
The demolition by implosion of Lafayette Courts in 1995 marked the end of the high-rise era in Baltimore public housing.Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images

Twenty-five years ago today, the ACLU of Maryland filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that changed the housing landscape in a major metropolitan area. The suit, Carmen Thompson, et al. v. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, et al., was a crucible for two questions that remain urgent today: “Who gets to live where?” and “What is racism?”

In the early 1990s, housing authorities across America were itching to tear down high-rise public housing. Under President Bill Clinton, the HOPE VI program inspired visions of low-rise mixed-income housing replacing the towers.