The Justice Department announced today that the city of St. Peters, Mo. will pay $80,000 and make changes to its zoning laws to settle a lawsuit alleging that the city violated the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it denied a zoning request to operate a group home for four women with intellectual disabilities. The lawsuit is part of the Justice Department’s continuing effort to enforce civil rights laws that require states and municipalities to end discrimination against, and unnecessary segregation of, persons with disabilities. The settlement was filed today and must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
“The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act ensure that municipalities cannot enforce discriminatory land use policies that restrict the rights of their residents to live in the housing of their choice,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This important settlement compensates the individuals who were harmed by the city’s practices and will prevent future housing discrimination against the city’s residents who have disabilities.”
“Zoning ordinances that unjustifiably keep group homes out of neighborhoods violate the Fair Housing Act,” said Bryan Greene, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD and the Department of Justice will continue to work together to ensure that everyone, including persons with disabilities, has access to the kind of housing that meets their needs.”
The settlement resolves the United States’ claims that the city violated the FHA and ADA when it adopted and enforced a facially discriminatory 2,500 foot group-home spacing requirement and when its Board of Adjustment refused, without justification, a variance petition to allow Community Living Inc. (CLI) to operate a group home for four women with disabilities. The complaint also alleges that the city refused to make reasonable accommodations to the city’s rules, policies, practices or services that were necessary to afford the residents an opportunity to use and enjoy their home. In addition to providing $80,000 for the residents, the settlement requires that the city:
· Replace the city ordinance that imposes a 2,500-foot spacing requirement on group homes for persons with disabilities with an ordinance that is approved by the United States;
· Adopt a written policy by which persons may request reasonable accommodations or modifications on the basis of disability from the city’s zoning and land use requirements;
· Prepare detailed written findings whenever the city denies any type of request for zoning or land use relating to a dwelling occupied by, or designated or intended for occupancy by, persons with disabilities; and
· Provide training on the FHA and ADA to City officials and employees involved in land use and zoning decisions.
The case began when a legal guardian for a resident of the group home filed a complaint with HUD after the Board of Adjustment denied the group home’s variance petition. HUD referred the complaint to the Justice Department, which conducted an investigation.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination should call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line (1-800-896-7743) or e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org. Such persons may also contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.
Fair housing enforcement is a priority of the Civil Rights Division. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt