The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
The City of Chattanooga found itself the subject of a federal lawsuit after allegedly refusing to allow four individuals with disabilities to rent a home.
According to the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, “the City discriminated on the basis of disability by refusing to allow four people with disabilities to reside together in a single-family home in the City, under the same terms and conditions as residents without disabilities. Through its action and implementation of its zoning ordinance, the City has engaged in a discriminatory housing practice and denied rights granted by the FHA and the ADA, and such denial raises an issue of general public importance.”
The suit goes on to explain that Quality Lifestyle, a non-profit organization based in Chattanooga, helped four non-related individuals find a home in the city in June 2020. The organization was contracted by the Mental Health Cooperative to assist individuals with a transition into a more stable lifestyle.
The four, all of whom live with mental illness, put in an application to rent a four-bedroom home on the 1100 block of South Greenwood Avenue. The home is located in an R1 zoning district, meaning it is a residential dwelling intended for a single family.
While the home was originally approved for the residents, that approval was revoked after members of the neighborhood voiced concerns about the safety of area residents.
On August 28, 2020, a Code Enforcement Office for the city’s land development office stated that “Quality Lifestyle would need a special exception permit from Zoning Board before providing housing” because of the R1 zoning of the home. A link to that application was emailed to the organization, and they were told that the application must be received by September 3rd to be considered at the October meeting.
The Zoning Board voted 5-0 to deny the approval of the application.
On Tuesday, November 7, the city of Chattanooga filed a consent decree, basically settling the lawsuit.
While the city maintains that they did not violate any FHA or ADA regulations and did not discriminate, they agreed to submit a proposal detailing amendments to their zoning ordinances. They will also pay $32,600 to Quality Lifestyle and $5000 to the U.S. Treasury, as well as implement training on the Fair Housing Act for employees.