Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in case of Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission v. Chester Housing Authority, No. H-1395.
Francis G. Pileggi, with him Pileggi and Desmond, for appellant.
Stanton W. Kratzok, Counsel, with him J. Shane Creamer, Attorney General, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission directed the Chester Housing Authority to reform its present tenant selection and assignment procedures and to take affirmative action to alleviate the racial imbalance at its housing facilities.
In a letter dated July 13, 1971, the Chairman of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission [Commission] notified the Chairman of the Chester Housing Authority [CHA] that a public hearing would be conducted on August 5, 1971, to receive testimony relative to a Commission-initiated Complaint.*fn1 The Complaint alleged that CHA had in the past "maintained and continues until the present time to maintain housing projects under its supervision and control which are segregated by the race of the tenants therein" and that its failure to take corrective measures constituted an unlawful
discrimination practice in violation of Section 5(h)(1) of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The Complaint further alleged that such discriminatory practice by CHA "effectively aids and abets the continuing segregation of students within the public schools in the City of Chester" in violation of Section 5(e) of the Act.
After the filing of the complaint, the Commission conducted an investigation and as a part thereof examined the files and policies of CHA and as a result determined that probable cause existed for crediting the allegations of the complaint.
A public hearing was conducted on August 5, 1971 after which the Commission unanimously determined that CHA had engaged in discriminatory practices in violation of Sections 5(h)(1) and 5(e) of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
At the outset, we feel compelled to note that the record in this case is very disorganized and at times approaches incoherence which makes effective appellate review in this inherently complex and vital area at best difficult. Unless this Court is supplied with a comprehensive, coherent record, significant and damaging delays in the administration of justice will result. Having spoken, we now focus our attention on the merits of the case.
CHA was created under the Housing Authorities Law*fn2 and is authorized to construct, own, maintain and operate federally assisted low rent housing in the City of Chester, including those projects known as Lamokin Village, Ruth L. Bennet Terrace Homes, William Penn Homes and McCaffery Village pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1401 et seq.
In the summer of 1969, the racial composition of these projects was as follows:
Lamokin Village 346 Blacks 0 Whites
McCaffery Village 0 Blacks 347 Whites
Ruth L. Bennet Homes 385 Blacks 0 Whites
William Penn Village 257 Blacks 20 Whites
The thrust of the Commission's allegations and the final decision is that the tenant selection and placement process employed by CHA resulted in black applicants having the opportunity to rent apartments only in those facilities predominantly housing black families.*fn3 The selection process, the Commission held, was discriminatory and in contravention of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
CHA contends that the Commission erred in its determination that CHA discriminated in providing housing on the basis of racial considerations because:
1. The acts charged to CHA by the Commission (assuming competent proof) do not violate any provision of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act;
2. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act does not preempt provisions of federal and state statutes ...