(Bloomberg) -- The city of Chicago and the Biden administration were accused in a lawsuit of illegally planning to lease public land earmarked for affordable homes to one of outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s billionaire donors to build a training complex for his professional soccer team.

A “no-bid deal” for the 23-acre site was made with Morningstar Inc. Chairman Joe Mansueto, owner of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire, even though the land has long been earmarked for public housing to replace units torn down decades ago, according to a suit filed Thursday in federal court.

The complaint against the Chicago Housing Authority and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which allegedly authorized the deal, was brought by groups including the Chicago Housing Initiative and the Lugenia Burns Hope Center, which advocate for public and affordable housing.

“Plaintiffs are faced with an imminent threat of irreparable harm,” the groups said in the complaint. They’re seeking an injunction to halt “any further steps taken to effectively permanently remove this land to construct public and affordable housing.”

The clash has been brewing since November, when members of the plaintiff groups held a protest outside Morningstar’s Chicago headquarters after Lightfoot revealed she had received a $25,000 campaign donation from Mansueto. “This donation came just two months after the City and CHA pushed the zoning proposal through city council,” according to the complaint.


Mansueto and Lightfoot, who failed to win re-election earlier this year, attended a groundbreaking in April at the site, which is west of the University of Illinois-Chicago campus. Plans call for a 53,000-square-foot performance center, two and a half grass soccer fields and three made of artificial turf, according to the Chicago Fire. The soccer club said the CHA will get $40 million in lease payments over the next 40 years. 

HUD and the CHA declined to comment on the suit. Morningstar didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The office of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, who assumed office May 15, also didn’t immediately return a call.

According to the complaint, using the land for a private soccer facility will harm people with disabilities and Black households who “need and are more likely to be eligible for this housing” and deprive them “of sorely needed integrated housing opportunities” in a rapidly developing area.

“Without additional commitments to create more affordable housing, more Black households are at risk of displacement, which will increase the racial segregation and gentrification of the area,” the groups said.

The case is Chicago Housing Initiative v. US Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1:23-cv-03476, US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

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