Friday, May 01, 2015

Civil Rights Feds Tag City Of Fort Worth With Discrimination Lawsuit Alleging Violations Of FHA, ADA For Barring Use Of 4-Bedroom House As An 8-Person, Post-Treatment, Addiction Recovery Group Home; At Issue Are City Land Use Regulations & Failure To Grant Zoning Variance As A Reasonable Accommodation In Area Currently Residential-Zoned Permitting Up To Five Unrelated Persons Per Home

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • The Justice Department [] filed a lawsuit against the city of Fort Worth, Texas, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, charges that Fort Worth discriminated against persons with disabilities based on its treatment of a group home for persons recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, including the city’s failure to grant a reasonable accommodation to the owner of the group home.

    The suit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by Fort Worth and requiring Fort Worth to make a reasonable accommodation to permit the continued operation of “Ebby’s Place(1) as a group home for up to eight individuals with disabilities. It also seeks monetary damages to compensate victims, as well as payment of a civil penalty.

    This lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by Ben Patterson, who through Ebby’s Place LLC, owns and operates the group home known as Ebby’s Place.

    “The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act seek to ensure that individuals with disabilities can live in communities of their choice without facing discrimination,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “We will continue our vigorous enforcement efforts to make certain that persons with disabilities are granted their rights under federal law.”

    “While we appreciate the City’s cooperation with this investigation, its refusal, as a governmental entity, to consider those recovering from drug or alcohol addiction as persons with disabilities is at odds with federal law,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas. “Simply put, the residents of Ebby’s Place are deserving of the same protections as persons with any other disability.”

    “Through our Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, HUD is working to ensure that housing options for persons with disabilities are not limited by restrictive zoning rules,” said Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez of HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office.
Source: Justice Department Sues Fort Worth, Texas, for Disability Discrimination.

For the lawsuit, see USA v. City of Fort Worth, Texas.

(1) From the lawsuit:
  • Ebby’s Place[]” [is] a four-bedroom home for persons with disabilities recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Ebby’s Place is [...] in Fort Worth, Texas, and is in an A-5, single-family residential zone. Ebby’s Place is home to between five and eight residents with disabilities. [...] Residents of Ebby’s Place have successfully completed at least a 30-day drug or alcohol treatment program, pay rent, and sign a contract to follow house rules. Residents are prohibited from using drugs or alcohol and must agree to mandatory drug testing. Residents must also work, seek employment, or attend school and must work with sponsors to maintain their sobriety.

    Ebby’s Place residents share bedrooms, bathrooms, the living room, and the kitchen. They purchase their groceries together every week. They often eat meals and spend their free time together. A manager lives on site.

    Five or fewer unrelated persons are permitted to live in an A-5, single-family residential zone as of right.

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