City of Jackson, Mississippi Resolves Lawsuit Over Zoning of Group Homes
The Justice Department announced a settlement with the City of Jackson, Mississippi to resolve allegations that the city violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by preventing people in recovery from alcohol and substance abuse from living in group homes in most residential areas.
The United States alleged that the City of Jackson engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of disability by imposing unlawful zoning restrictions on group homes for persons in recovery. The city enforced those restrictions against a group home operated by Urban Rehab, Inc., resulting in an order requiring the home to close and the residents to relocate. Several other homes for persons in recovery were at risk of being closed by the city’s enforcement of its ordinance.
As part of the settlement, the city agreed to revise its zoning code to permit persons in recovery to reside in all residential zones and to ease other restrictions on group homes for people with disabilities. The city has agreed to adopt a reasonable accommodation policy, train city employees on the requirements of the FHA and ADA, appoint a Fair Housing Compliance Officer, and report periodically to the Justice Department. The city will pay $100,000 to the owner of Urban Rehab, Inc., $35,000 to the department as a civil penalty, and $50,000 to a settlement fund that will compensate other victims.
“Federal law prohibits housing discrimination against people because of their disabilities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This settlement is an important commitment by the City of Jackson to bring its zoning code in line with both the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
The settlement, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, resolves a lawsuit the department filed in September 2016. The case was handled by the department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Mississippi.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at Justice.gov. Persons who believe that they have experienced unlawful housing discrimination may contact the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, or by e-mail.