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Justice Department Secures Agreement with Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Resolve Disability-Based Discrimination Lawsuit

December 12, 2023
Source: U.S. Justice Department

The Justice Department announced today that the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, has agreed to pay $32,600 to resolve allegations that it violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to allow four people with mental health disabilities to reside together in a single-family home in the city under the same terms and conditions as residents without disabilities. 

The department’s lawsuit alleged that the city unnecessarily required Quality Lifestyle Service Inc. (Quality Lifestyle), a nonprofit housing provider, to apply for a special use permit to manage a four-person transitional home in the city’s R-1 residential zoning district. Under the city’s own zoning ordinance and state law, the home was an allowed use in that neighborhood. The lawsuit further alleged that the city denied the permit without any legitimate reason.  

“Federal civil rights laws protect the rights of people with disabilities to live in the housing of their choice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This agreement sends a clear message that the Justice Department will vigorously protect the rights of people with disabilities. All Americans, regardless of disability, have a right to fair housing in their communities.”

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office commends the complainant for sharing their experience to improve housing opportunities for persons with disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III for the Eastern District of Tennessee. “Further, we commend the city of Chattanooga for cooperating in the investigation and working to reach a resolution that promotes accessible housing in East Tennessee.”

“Preventing persons with disabilities from accessing housing through discriminatory housing policies has no place in our society,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Demetria L. McCain of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “This agreement sends a strong message that HUD and the Justice Department will continue to work together to enforce our nation’s fair housing laws.”

Under the agreement, which was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, the city agreed to amend its zoning ordinance to ensure that persons with disabilities are not illegally denied housing opportunities or excluded from participation in the city’s services or programs. The city also agreed to pay a civil penalty to the government of $5,000, to train officials and employees about their fair-housing obligations under federal law, designate a fair-housing compliance officer and file periodic reports with the department.

The case began when Quality Lifestyle filed a complaint with HUD. HUD referred the complaint to the Justice Department, which conducted an investigation.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the FHA, which prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex and familial status. The division also enforces the ADA, which protects persons with disabilities’ access to state and local governments’ programs and services.

More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals may report disability discrimination or other forms of housing discrimination by calling the Justice Department at 1-833-591-0291 or submitting a report online at civilrights.justice.gov. Individuals also may report discrimination by contacting HUD at 1-800-669-9777, or by filing a complaint online.

Consent Decree: United States of America v. City of Chattanooga, Tennessee [PDF}(200.89 KB)
Link: consent_decree_chattanooga_entered_2023-12-08.pdf

News source: justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-secures-agreement-chattanooga-tennessee-resolve-disability-based

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