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On December 22, 2016, the Kennedy Hunt, P.C., III filed suit against the Defendant, city of Springfield, Illinois, under the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The lawsuit alleges that Springfield’s zoning ordinance discriminates against individuals with disabilities.  The ordinance allows up to 5 unrelated individuals to live in a single family home together as a “family.”  However, individuals with disabilities are not allowed to do so if they are within 600 feet of another home housing individuals with disabilities.   The Complaint can be read here.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, and familial status. The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

Plaintiff Individual Advocacy Group (“IAG”), provides  housing services  to adults with developmental disabilities. IAG contracts with landlords and provides in-home services to support individuals with disabilities so they can live in the community rather than an institution. Three IAG consumers live together in a home in Springfield. These individuals have severe disabilities and have extremely limited options for housing outside of institutionalization.

In 2016, the zoning administrator for the City of Springfield informed the residents of the home they were in violation of the Springfield zoning code because they were located within 600 feet of a group home. The zoning administrator told the residents they would need a special use permit to continue living in their home. The residents applied for the special use permit but were subsequently denied.

Our office filed a lawsuit after the permit was denied, arguing that refusing to grant a special use permit constitutes a failure to accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act, since Springfield would not alter their policies to accommodate our clients, who are individuals with disabilities, to allow them an equal opportunity to dwell in a residential neighborhood. Further, the lawsuit argues that the City’s ordinance discriminates against persons with disabilities on its face by applying the term “family” differently to persons with disabilities. The lawsuit states Springfield has chosen to interpret the term “family” in a variety of ways over the years, to pick and choose which groups of people are allowed to live together in residential areas.

This lawsuit seeks to prevent Springfield from enacting and enforcing these discriminatory zoning ordinances and policies, promoting individuals with disabilities to live independently within our communities and outside of institutions.