Saturday, June 13, 2015

Civil Rights Feds: City Of Beaumont's Excessive Zoning, Fire Code Restrictions Applied To Small Group, Companion Care Homes For Up To Four Intellectually/Developmentally Disabled Residents Per Premises Is Discriminatory, Violates Fair Housing Act, ADA

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • The Justice Department [] filed a lawsuit against the city of Beaumont, Texas, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, charges that Beaumont discriminated against persons with disabilities based on its treatment of small group homes and companion care homes for persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities by applying overly-restrictive zoning and fire code restrictions that are not imposed on similarly-situated housing for persons who do not have disabilities.(1)

    The suit seeks a court order prohibiting Beaumont from imposing a one-half mile spacing rule that effectively prohibits many small group homes and companion care homes from operating in Beaumont. The suit further seeks to prohibit Beaumont from imposing unnecessary fire code requirements that exceed those mandated by the state of Texas, which regulates such homes.

    The city’s excessive restrictions have prohibited numerous persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities from living in Beaumont and resulted in the institutionalization in a nursing home of a woman who was forced to move out of her home
    . The suit also seeks monetary damages to compensate victims, as well as payment of a civil penalty.

    This lawsuit arose as a result of complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities whose homes were closed and were threatened with closure under Beaumont’s challenged housing restrictions.(2)
For the press release, see Justice Department Sues Beaumont, Texas, for Discrimination Against People with Disabilities.

For the lawsuit, see USA v. City of Beaumont.

Editor's Note: See HUD Announces Agreement With Anchorage, Alaska To Lift Housing Restrictions For People With Disabilities, where the city of Anchorage, Alaska recently resolved similar allegations that its zoning laws violated the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws by discriminating against people with disabilities. Specifically, HUD’s complaint alleged the city’s zoning code imposed restrictions on groups with certain disabilities such as maximum occupancy standards and fees which were not imposed on other groups.

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(1) Among the allegations in the lawsuit made by the Feds:
  • The City has discriminated on the basis of disability by preventing or inhibiting the operation of small community homes of up to four residents for persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities, [...].
(2) In Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999), the Supreme Court held that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals with mental disabilities have the right to live in the community rather than in institutions if, in the words of the opinion of the Court, "the State's treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate, the transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the affected individual, and the placement can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the State and the needs of others with mental disabilities." (Reference: Wikipedia).

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