WASHINGTON—The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against Sarasota County, Fla. alleging housing discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, in Tampa, alleges that the county refused to allow Renaissance Manor Inc., to operate six homes for individuals with mental illness and a history of substance abuse. The homes are intended to provide a supportive environment for residents, but are otherwise similar to other houses in the county inhabited by residents sharing living space and common facilities. According to the government's complaint, the homes at issue are permitted to operate as a matter of right under the county's zoning code, but the county determined that the homes violated the code because of the residents' disabilities. The complaint also alleges that the county retaliated against Renaissance Manor by refusing to release grant funds it had been previously awarded to it.
"The residents of these homes should not be refused an equal opportunity for housing in their community," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department is committed to preventing such housing discrimination against people with disabilities."
The suit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, civil penalties, and a court order barring future discrimination.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. Since January 1, 2001, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has filed 197 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, including 94 based on disability discrimination. For more information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces, go to www.usdoj.gov/crt.