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Peo. Ex Rel. Gutknecht v. City of Chicago

OPINION FILED MARCH 23, 1953.

THE PEOPLE EX REL. JOHN GUTKNECHT, STATE'S ATTORNEY, APPELLANT,

v.

THE CITY OF CHICAGO ET AL., APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. HARRY M. FISHER, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SCHAEFER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This case involves the validity of the 1949 amendments to the Blighted Areas Redevelopment Act of 1947. It is here upon appeal from a judgment of the circuit court of Cook County which dismissed, after a trial, a quo warrantor action brought upon the relation of the State's Attorney of Cook County against the Chicago Land Clearance Commission, the city of Chicago, and the State Housing Board.

As originally enacted, the Blighted Areas Redevelopment Act of 1947 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1947, chap. 67 1/2, pars. 63 to 91,) was concerned with "slum and blighted areas" which were found to contribute to, and cause the spread of disease, crime, infant mortality and juvenile delinquency, and to necessitate excessive and disproportionate expenditures for crime prevention and punishment, fire and health protection and other public services, which constituted a drain upon public revenues and impaired the efficient functioning of municipalities and the State government. The elimination of these areas and the construction of redevelopment projects financed by private capital was declared to be a public use essential to the public interest.

In broad outline, the 1947 act provided for the establishment of Land Clearance Commissions in municipalities of more than 25,000 upon resolution of the governing body of the municipality, approved by the State Housing Board. It authorized Land Clearance Commissions to investigate the extent and location of slum and blighted areas, and to designate specific slum or blighted areas as redevelopment projects. To be effective, such a particular designation was required to be approved by the State Housing Board and the governing body of the municipality. The Land Clearance Commission was authorized to acquire title to all real property, within the project area by purchase, gift or condemnation. After acquisition of the land, the Commission was to clear the site and then to sell the land, at its use value, to a purchaser or purchasers whose plans for development of the property had been approved. Such sales were also required to be approved by the State Housing Board and the governing body of the municipality. The act provided that the State Housing Board and the governing bodies of municipalities might make grants of funds to Land Clearance Commissions in aid of redevelopment projects.

A "slum and blighted area" was defined in the 1947 act as "any area * * * where buildings or improvements, by reason of dilapidation, obsolescence, overcrowding, faulty arrangement or design, lack of ventilation, light and sanitary facilities, excessive land coverage, deleterious land use or layout or any combination of these factors, are detrimental to the public safety, health, morals, or welfare." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1947, chap. 67 1/2, par. 65(j).

The Amendatory Act of 1949 amended the title and several sections of the 1947 act. It declared that there existed, in many communities of the State, areas of predominantly open land which are unmarketable for housing or other economic purposes because of "obsolete platting, diversity of ownership, deterioration of structures or site improvements, or taxes and special assessment delinquences [sic] usually exceeding the fair value of the land." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1949, chap. 67 1/2, par. 64.) It was found by the General Assembly that these unmarketable areas impaired or arrested the sound growth of communities, constituted a blight upon communities by preventing the construction of critically needed residential housing, and promoted the creation of slum and blighted areas as defined in the 1947 act, with their attendant evils of disease, crime, infant mortality and juvenile delinquency. Utilizing the existing mechanisms provided in the 1947 act, the Amendatory Act authorized Land Clearance Commissions to ascertain the existence of such unmarketable areas, acquire them, and sell them for development in accordance with an approved plan. As in the case of the 1947 act, all essential determinations of the Land Clearance Commissions in connection with open undeveloped areas were made subject to approval by the State Housing Board and the governing body of the municipality involved.

It was stipulated that after an investigation and survey, the Chicago Land Clearance Commission, by resolution, made a determination that a so-called blighted vacant area of forty acres of predominantly open platted urban land, bounded by Seventy-seventh Street, Seventy-ninth Street, Rockwell Street and Western Avenue, in Chicago, should be acquired and designated as "Blighted Vacant Area Redevelopment Project No. 2." This determination was approved by the State Housing Board and by the city council of Chicago. Thereafter Normandy Homes, Inc., an Illinois corporation, submitted to the commission a redevelopment plan whereby it was to acquire the tract and construct thereon 160 single-family detached dwelling units, ranging in selling price between $12,000 and $18,000 with most units selling for about $15,000. The Land Clearance Commission approved this redevelopment plan, as did the State Housing Board and the city council. It was also stipulated that the Land Clearance Commission was preparing to expend public funds and to exercise the right of eminent domain to acquire the area for the purpose of selling it to Normandy Homes, Inc., or to some other eligible purchaser under the act, for redevelopment conformably to the redevelopment plan. It was stipulated further that the Federal Housing Act of 1949 makes Federal financial aid available to local public agencies for urban redevelopment projects of the character here involved, and that the Commission was prepared to apply for a Federal capital grant in connection with this project, having received written assurance from the agency which administers the Federal Housing Act of 1949 that the land included in the project is a site of the character described in section 110(c)(iii) of the Federal Act. The stipulation concludes with the statement that acquisition by the Commission of the land included in Project No. 2 and its development for residential uses pursuant to a plan of redevelopment would provide critically needed housing in Chicago and be of great assistance in the slum clearance program in which the commission is engaged.

Plaintiff does not attack the Blighted Areas Redevelopment Act of 1947, as originally enacted. That act was before this court and its validity was sustained in People ex rel. Tuohy v. City of Chicago, 399 Ill. 551, and Chicago Land Clearance Com. v. White, 411 Ill. 310. The present attack is confined to the Amendatory Act of 1949. On that question, we shall consider the seven issues pertaining to the validity of the act which were made by the pleadings and argued on appeal. Alleged violations of constitutional provisions not argued are abandoned.

We consider first the contention that the Amendatory Act violates section 13 of article IV of our constitution in that it transcends the scope of the title of the Blighted Areas Redevelopment Act of 1947. Section 13 of article IV provides that no act shall embrace more than one subject and that shall be expressed in the title. The original act of 1947 dealt only with land which was characterized as slum or blighted primarily because of the physical condition of the structures on it. The Amendatory Act of 1949 amended the title and the body of this act to include vacant land described as blighted because of its unmarketability. There is no objection to such a method of broadening the range of an existing statute. It has been done hundreds of times. An objection similar to that here raised was presented in People v. City of Chicago, 256 Ill. 558, where the issue arose because the title of the original act limiting the hours of employment of females specified particular occupations to which the act was applicable. Subsequently, the act was broadened to include new categories of employment and at the same time the title was amended to enumerate both the old and the new categories. To the contention there made that the amendatory act violated section 13 of article IV of the constitution, this court replied, "the method here adopted has been frequently employed, and we cannot see why it does not accomplish the purpose intended by the constitution."

The question in this case must be resolved by considering the content of the amended statute in relation to its amended title. The amended title is as follows: "An Act in relation to the eradication and redevelopment of slum and blighted areas and for the development and redevelopment of blighted vacant areas; to provide for the creation of instrumentalities to aid in the accomplishment of this purpose, and to define the rights, powers and duties of such instrumentalities and of political subdivisions and municipal corporations in connection therewith; and to make provision for financial assistance from the federal government, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, the State of Illinois and municipal corporations therein." The concern of the amended statute with the development and redevelopment of blighted vacant areas is explicitly expressed in the amended title. The only issue which can arise, therefore, is whether the amended act embraces more than a single subject and thus violates section 13 of article IV.

The requirement of singleness of subject has been frequently construed, and the applicable principles are settled. The term "subject" is comprehensive in its scope and may be as broad as the legislature chooses, so long as the matters included have a natural or logical connection. An act may include all matters germane to its general subject, including the means reasonably necessary or appropriate to the accomplishment of the legislative purpose. Nor is the constitutional provision a limitation on the comprehensiveness of the subject; rather, it prohibits the inclusion of "discordant provisions that by no fair intendment can be considered as having any legitimate relation to each other." (People ex rel. City of Chicago v. Board of County Comrs. of Cook County, 355 Ill. 245.) To render a provision in the body of a statute void as not embraced in the title, the provision must be one which is incongruous, or which has no proper connection with the title. Department of Public Works and Buildings v. Chicago Title and Trust Co. 408 Ill. 41.

Applying these principles to the present case, the question is whether the provisions of the amended act are germane to a single subject. The General Assembly found and stated that unmarketable areas like the one here involved are related to the elimination of slums, and expressed the relationship in these words: "(b) that such * * * land constitutes a blight upon communities by preventing the construction of critically needed residential housing; (c) that the retardation of housing and other essential community development and redevelopment projects is a direct and immediate cause of such blighted vacant areas and that the existence of such areas constitutes a menace to the public health, safety, welfare and morals by promoting the creation and continuation of slum and blighted areas, as herein defined, with their attendant evils of disease, crime, infant mortality and juvenile delinquency; * * *." Ill. Rev. State. 1951, chap. 67 1/2, par. 64.

The same interrelation between such stagnant vacant areas and the elimination of slums was recognized by Congress in the Housing Act of 1949. (42 U.S.C.A., sec. 1441 ff.) The report of the Senate committee which recommended the Federal act stated the relationship this way: "It is, of course, perfectly apparent that the elimination of residential slums in central city areas and their redevelopment in accord with a plan for the most appropriate use of the land therein (i.e., for public use, for industry, for housing at more appropriate density, etc.) makes necessary a dispersion of the families now living in such slums. Federal loan assistance for the acquisition and preparation of open unplatted urban or suburban land to be developed for predominantly housing use, so that adequate provision can be made for the necessary dispersion of some portion of the central city population, is therefore essential to any effective slum clearance operation, and is entirely appropriate." Sen. Rep. 84, par. 2, 81st Congress, 1st Sess.

This court has flatly recognized that the construction of new housing is related to the elimination of slums. The question in Cremer v. Peoria Housing Authority, 399 Ill. 579, was whether or not the expenditure of public funds for the acquisition of land which would then be sold to a private builder for the erection of housing constituted a public purpose. Answering this question in the affirmative, this court first pointed out that facilitating the supply of additional housing was alone sufficient to constitute a public purpose for the expenditure of State funds. Then, stressing the connection between the supply of additional housing and the elimination of slum areas, the court continued (pp. 589-590): "The public purpose of the State Grant acts is supplemented to the extent that, although grants are no longer contingent upon the elimination of an equivalent slum area, they promote the development of substantial housing and thus aid in preventing the creation of new blighted areas and permit existing slum areas to be cleared. Slum clearance is, of course, a proper public ...


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