Defendant corporation is the public Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth, New Jersey, created under the provisions of the public housing laws of this State, N.J.S.A. 55:14 A. The individual defendants are the executive director and also the duly appointed commissioners of said housing authority.
This action is brought by 13 American citizens of the Negro race and charges that defendants, in the operation and management of the public housing projects under defendants' control, have adopted a policy of discrimination against Negroes in general and these plaintiffs in particular. Plaintiffs claim that they are all eligible for admission to the housing project under defendants' control and have made timely application for admission. Eight of the plaintiffs have received formal approval of their applications from said housing authority but have never had an apartment in any of the projects assigned to any of them, although some of the approvals are dated as far back as October 19, 1951. The other plaintiffs, it is charged, have never been able to have any official action taken on their applications, although some of said applications were made and filed as early as May of 1950.
It is the plaintiffs' contention that the delay in making apartments available to Negroes in general and these plaintiffs in particular results from a policy practiced by defendants
of admitting Negroes to the housing projects on the basis of a quota or percentage system. It is further charged that those Negroes finally admitted are housed in a segregated part of one of the projects, namely, Pioneer Homes, and are not permitted as tenants in the other housing project under defendants' control known as Mravlag Manor. In both projects, it is alleged, there are 828 housing units of which number 72 housing units in the segregated section of Pioneer Homes have been allotted to members of the Negro race. On the basis of the allegations heretofore set forth, these plaintiffs charge that defendants, in operating the aforesaid public housing projects, are guilty of discrimination against Negroes solely because of their race or color. Such discrimination, say the plaintiffs, violates our State and Federal Constitutions and they ask this court to enjoin defendants from continuing a policy of quota admissions and segregation of Negroes.
The defendants have questioned the eligibility of some of the plaintiffs for admission to the public housing projects under their control. However, they do concede that some of the plaintiffs have been approved for admission and are waiting for available housing units to be assigned to them.
It is frankly admitted by defendants that Negroes are admitted to the projects under their control on the basis of a quota system which, according to defendants, has been in effect since 1938. Under this quota system it is conceded that the 72 housing units in Pioneer Homes are the only units made available to Negro families. The use of a quota system is defended in paragraph 11 of the answer on the ground that the percentage of units allocated to Negroes in the public housing projects approximates the percentage of Negro population in the City of Elizabeth and therefore is a fair quota to which plaintiffs should not object.
Defendants also admit that those Negroes admitted to the public housing projects of the City of Elizabeth are housed in a segregated area. Such segregation, according to defendants, is not wrong because the Negroes admitted are given the same housing facilities as other tenants. Finally, defendants argue that segregation, of itself, is not forbidden by
state law or Constitution, or by the Constitution of the United States.
There is no validity whatever to the arguments advanced by the defendants. The use of any quota system in admitting Negroes to public housing projects is discriminatory and therefore a violation of Article 1, paragraph 5, of the New Jersey Constitution of 1947, which provides as follows:
"No person shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil or military right, nor be discriminated against in the exercise of any civil or military right, nor be segregated in the militia or in the public schools, because of ...