Sunday, June 19, 2016

Small Upstate NY Town Gets Hit w/ Fair Housing Lawsuit Over Refusal To Issue Building Permit For Group Home Intended To Serve Four Developmentally Disabled Adults

In Erie County, New York, The Buffalo News reports:
  • Scott Gehl thought the group homes war was over.

    Even now, years later, he remembers the late 1970s and early 1980s as the time when neighborhood and municipal opposition to group homes grew into a major front-burner issue.

    Decades later, Gehl’s group, Housing Opportunities Made Equal,(1) is back in court, this time challenging the Town of Boston’s rejection of a home for four developmentally disabled adults.
    ***
    HOME, the region’s largest fair housing organization, recently filed a federal lawsuit claiming the town discriminated against the disabled when it refused to issue a building permit for a new home at the corner of Cole and Omphalius roads.

    Town officials say they’re not opposed to group homes but have fought this project from Day One. The concerns range from where it might be built to who it might serve. One of the biggest fears is that it would house sex offenders.

    “Of the 1,600 people we serve, only seven are registered sex offenders,” said Mindy Cervoni, president of Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled, the Buffalo organization sponsoring the home.

    Cervoni said opposition to her group’s projects – it has 40 group homes across the region – is not unusual, but this is the first time Community Services had to file a lawsuit to enforce its right to build a new home.

    The suit followed a hearing last year into the town’s concerns and a subsequent decision from the state recommending the group home move forward. In her decision, the acting commissioner of the State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities said the town’s concerns, while important, were based on “speculation and conjecture.”
For more, see Fair housing group sues Town of Boston over group homes.
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(1) Housing Opportunities Made Equal is a Buffalo-based fair housing organization providing comprehensive services for victims of housing discrimination throughout Western New York. These services include recording and investigation of reported incidents of discrimination, paralegal counseling, client advocacy to conciliate validated complaints, case preparation for legal action, and emotional support for victims and their families.

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