RISMEDIA, Sept. 25, 2007-Last week, the Justice Department sued the town of St. John, Ind., for violating the Fair Housing Act when it denied a petition for a variance based on the disability of a prospective resident. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, charges that St. John intentionally discriminated against persons with disabilities when it refused to allow a St. John resident a variance to allow one unrelated individual with multiple sclerosis to live with the resident in his home.
Under the town’s zoning regulations, unrelated persons cannot live together in a dwelling in a single-family district. The complaint alleges that the requested variance was reasonable and necessary to afford prospective residents with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling in a residential neighborhood in St. John.
“This lawsuit is another example of this Administration’s commitment to end the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the mainstream and to increase their opportunities to share in the American dream,” said Rena J. Comisac, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division.
This lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD referred the case to the Justice Department after conducting an investigation.
The suit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the town and requiring the town to grant the requested variance, pay monetary damages to compensate victims, and pay a civil penalty.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. Since Jan. 1, 2001, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has filed 233 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 108 of which have alleged discrimination based on disability.
For more information, visit http://www.usdoj.gov/crt.