Sunday, January 29, 2017

Application Of Local Zoning Regulations Again At Issue In Fair Housing Lawsuit; City Accused Of Applying Allegedly Discriminatory Rule Against Home That Houses Three Adults With Intellectual, Developmental Disabilities & Operated By Non-Profit Group

In Springfield, Illinois, The State Journal-Register reports:
  • Most weeks William McCombs visits his son Jonathan in a small, ranch-style house on Noble Avenue in Springfield.

    His dad likes to take Jonathan, who has Down syndrome, to visit his grandmother or to get movies at the video store.

    It's a great arrangement for them both, his dad says. Jonathan, 34, lives with two other men in a house they rent, run by a nonprofit where he can get the regular care he needs.

    "I've been happy with it," William McCombs said. "He's right there in a nice neighborhood, he's able to walk to Hy-Vee with a staff person. He's very happy there. He considers that his house and his roommates."

    But it's unclear if his son will get to live in the Noble Avenue house much longer.

    Last month, city officials ruled the house is too close to another group home for people with disabilities. They denied a request for an exception by the homeowners and the Romeoville-based nonprofit Individual Advocacy Group.

    The city has a zoning requirement that group homes must be at least 600 feet from each other.

    "They failed to follow our code," said Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin, whose ward includes the house. He said the rule exists to avoid a density of group homes in one area. "If they'd placed the home 600 feet beyond the Sparc home, there would have been no problem."

    Now, the issue is in court.

    Individual Advocacy Group(1) has filed a federal housing discrimination lawsuit last month against the city. William and Jonathan McCombs aren't directly involved.

    The lawsuit accuses the city of discriminating against another resident of the home on the basis of his disability by enforcing the spacing requirement and denying the request for a reasonable exception. The lawsuit goes on to say the city's action violates the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act because it applies the spacing rule to people with disabilities and not families or residents who are not disabled.

    The house, the lawsuit contends, should be considered a family residence and not a family-care residence under zoning laws because five or fewer people live there, which is the city's definition of a family.

    "The next step and the way to combat that discriminatory behavior is by filing the complaint that we did," said Sarah Jane Hunt, an attorney for the nonprofit.
Source: City accused of discrimination in group-home lawsuit.
(1) Individual Advocacy Group is a CARF accredited not-for-profit organization dedicated to community- based supports and personal advocacy for individuals with special needs. IAG provides its services in 21 counties in Illinois from Chicago to the Quad Cities to Springfield, as well as the District of Columbia and Maryland.