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On October 26, 2023, Kennedy Hunt P.C. filed a complaint against the City of Peoria, Illinois over allegations the city violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit claims the City of Peoria unlawfully interfered with the operation and occupancy of dwellings for disabled persons recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction. 

According to the lawsuit, Plaintiff Oxford House opened its first home in 1975 and assists in the establishment of affordable housing and support for individuals with disabilities, including individuals recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism. To date, Oxford House operates more than 3,000 homes in the United States.

In 2021, Oxford House contracted with the state of Illinois to open several Oxford homes. There are approximately 80 Oxford Houses in Illinois. Per the lawsuit, on or about March 22, 2022, one or more neighbors complained to the City about Oxford House using a home in Peoria as a residence for people recovering from alcoholism and drugs.

According to the lawsuit, the City then repeatedly told Oxford House it was in violation of the City’s zoning code. The City did not respond to the reasonable accommodation requests for over six months and later denied the requests. 

Per the lawsuit: 

The City classified Oxford House properties as something other than single-family dwellings and applied its zoning code in a manner that interfered with Oxford House’s ability to open houses in the City. The City refused to provide the reasonable accommodation of treating Oxford Houses as single-family homes. 

The City also changed its classification of several Oxford Houses to “Family Care Facilities.” In doing so, according to the lawsuit: 

The plain language of the City’s definition of Family Care Facility requires limits on residency to those persons with disabilities that “require assistance and/or supervision.” Oxford House residents do not require assistance, and there is no supervision at Oxford House. Finally, “[e]xcluded from [the City zoning code’s definition of Family Care Facility] are persons whose disability arises from current use or addiction to a controlled substance as this term is used in the US Code and Illinois Statutes.” Based on a plain reading of the ordinance, Oxford House residents are excluded since all residents are recovering alcoholics and substance abusers, meaning most, if not all, were “addicted” to a controlled substance.

The lawsuit continues: 

The City continues to enforce the determination that the Oxford Houses are “Family Care Facilities.” […] But for the intervention of the Court, the City will continue to cite other Oxford Homes and their landlords in the area. The City’s actions have injured OHI by frustrating OHI’s purpose and interfering with the efforts, contracts, and programs of OHI in Illinois, and forced OHI to divert, expend, and devote scarce resources to counteract the City’s unlawful practices. 

The lawsuit alleges the City’s actions now threaten Plaintiff’s residents – who are disabled under the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act – with impending eviction and fines based on discriminatory means.  The lawsuit seeks damages, injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees and costs. 

This case is ongoing. For more information, contact attorney Sarah Jane Hunt at sarahjane@kennedyhuntlaw.com. If you or someone you know has had their housing or disability rights violated, our skilled attorneys at Kennedy Hunt, P.C. may be able to help you. Fill out a questionnaire so we can understand your claim.