Important New Federal Court Decision on Disability Housing Density Rule
Updated: Oct 31
On March 3, 2020, the federal court in the Central District of Illinois issued its decision in Valencia v. City of Springfield, in which plaintiffs alleged the City of Springfield unlawfully discriminated against three disabled individuals when it ruled they could no longer occupy a single-family residence located within 600 feet of an existing disabled group home.
Scott Mendel, Chairman of Together for Choice, wrote to Allison Stark, Illinois’ Director of the Department of Developmental Disabilities, sharing the court's decision in this case and urging Illinois to change its proposed Rule 115.310(c)(1) and (d).
Please share this federal court decision with your state directors and representatives. A density rule on housing for people with disabilities that does not apply to the general public discriminates against people with disabilities and therefore violates the federal Fair Housing Act.
Below is Scott Mendel's e-mail to Allison Stark:
From: "Mendel, Scott" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: March 11, 2020 at 11:37:42 AM CDT To: "Stark, Allison" <Allison.Stark@illinois.gov>, "Medley, Andrea" <Andrea.Medley@illinois.gov> Subject: Rule115 - New Court Decision Allison: Last week, the federal court in the Central District of Illinois issued its decision in Valencia v. City of Springfield. This decision has important implications for proposed Rule 115.310(c)(1) and (d), about which I previously e mailed you. A copy of the decision is attached. The plaintiffs in the Valencia case, which included the United States government, challenged a Springfield ordinance that prohibited a group home from being within 600 feet of another group home. The United States and the private plaintiffs argued that the ordinance violated the federal Fair Housing Act because the density rule discriminated against individuals with disabilities. The density rule did not apply to the general public, only to those with disabilities.
Proposed 115.310(c)(1) and (d) raise the very same issue. (c)(1) prohibits a group home from being adjacent to or in close proximity to another group home. (d) prohibits an apartment building from having more than 25% of its units waiver funded. These rules apply only to individuals with disabilities. They apply to no other group. The state does not prohibit a Jewish family or an African American family from living adjacent to or in close proximity to another Jewish or African American family. The state does not prohibit an apartment building from renting more than 25% of its units to Jews or African Americans. Such restrictions are unthinkable because they are discriminatory and violate the Fair Housing Act. Similarly, the restrictions in 115.310 are discriminatory and violate the Fair Housing Act because they discriminate against individuals with disabilities.
As the court last week held:
“By maintaining the discriminatory spacing rule and enforcing it against the2328 S. Noble group home, the City has denied housing and made it unavailable on the basis of disability, in violation of42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1)(B). The spacing rule renders certain housing “unavailable” to persons with disabilities that would otherwise be available. The 600-foot spacing rule on group homes for individuals with disabilities that does not apply on comparable housing for non-disabled individuals plainly imposes discriminatory “terms” and “conditions” on housing on the basis of disability, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2).” (Slip Op. at 7-8)
The court’s reasoning applies directly to 115.310(c)(1) and (d). These rules render unavailable to individuals with disabilities housing that would otherwise be available. These rules don’t apply to non-disabled individuals and therefore are plainly discriminatory terms and conditions on the basis of disability.
Again, I urge the state to change these rules. The focus should be on whether individuals are integrated into the communities they choose to the extent desired, not on whether their home is located close to another home serving individuals with disabilities or whether their apartment building has more than 25% of its units rented to individuals with disabilities. We should not adopt rules that are readily subject to challenge as discriminatory under federal law.