Saturday, March 19, 2016

City Of Fort Worth Settles Fair Housing Disability Discrimination Lawsuit w/ Feds; Use Of 4-Bedroom Residence As Group Home For Up To 7 Drug/Alcohol Addiction-Recovering Residents Gets Green Light After Initial Denial Of Zoning Variance Request; City To Cough Up $135K In Damages To Operator, $10K To Feds; Waives All Code Enforecment Citation/Fines, Agrees To Other Non-Monetary Concessions

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • The Justice Department announced [] that the city of Fort Worth, Texas, has agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that Fort Worth discriminated against persons with disabilities when it refused to allow a group home for individuals recovering from drug and alcohol addiction to operate in a single family residential zone in the city.

    The lawsuit, filed in April 2015, alleged that the city violated the Fair Housing Act when it issued multiple citations and fines against a four bedroom group home, known as Ebby’s place, in which residents who have successfully completed at least a 30-day drug or alcohol treatment program live together to reinforce and encourage their mutual commitment to recovery. After receiving the citations, Ebby’s Place requested a zoning variance that would allow it to operate, which the city council unanimously denied.

    Under the terms of the agreement, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth will allow Ebby’s Place to operate with up to seven residents and will rescind all the citations it had previously issued against the home.

    Fort Worth will also pay $135,000 to Ebby’s Place in monetary damages and $10,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. As a part of the settlement, Fort Worth also adopted an ordinance establishing a process whereby persons may seek reasonable accommodations from the city’s zoning or land use laws and practices, where such accommodations may be necessary to afford persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their housing.

    The 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. After conducting an investigation, HUD referred the matter to the Department of Justice. Ebby’s Place later intervened in the Justice Department’s lawsuit. Today’s agreement would also settle the lawsuit filed by Ebby’s Place.

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