WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit alleging that St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, has discriminated against persons with disabilities in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, alleges that St. Bernard Parish failed to provide reasonable accommodations to its zoning ordinance by repeatedly refusing to allow two proposed group homes for children with disabilities to operate. The two group homes had satisfied all of the relevant licensing requirements of the State of Louisiana.
“The Fair Housing Act prohibits municipalities from applying their zoning laws in a manner that discriminates against persons with disabilities,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to enforcing the Fair Housing Act zealously to ensure that such discrimination against people with disabilities does not continue to occur.”
“Nondiscriminatory housing is a fundamental right for all Americans, including those with disabilities, according to the Fair Housing Act,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Peter G. Strasser. “Our office, along with the Department’s Housing and Civil Enforcement section, will continue to protect the rights of all citizens within our district to attain housing.”
“It’s hard enough for individuals with disabilities to find adequate places to live without having the development of housing that meets their needs intentionally blocked,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to work with the Justice Department to take appropriate action anytime housing providers and others in a position to control access to housing violate the Fair Housing Act.”
This case arose when St. Bernard Parish denied reasonable accommodations to allow two group homes, which would have been licensed by the State of Louisiana, to operate in single-family neighborhoods of the Parish. The Parish’s zoning code prohibits group homes from operating in these neighborhoods. There are only 13 group homes operating throughout the State of Louisiana that serve children with disabilities in the same manner as the homes proposed in St. Bernard Parish. The two group home operators filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) after their requests for reasonable accommodations were denied.
The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting St. Bernard from applying its zoning code in a manner that discriminates against persons with disabilities. The lawsuit also seeks monetary damages to compensate victims, as well as payment of a civil penalty. A related case challenging St. Bernard’s conduct was filed by the operators of the two proposed group homes. That case, Angelicare et al. v. St. Bernard Parish, is pending before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex and familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at [email protected], or contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-66-9777 or through its website at https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp.
The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proven in federal court.
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