The Justice Department announced today that the village of Hinsdale, Illinois, has agreed to pay $800,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that the village violated the Fair Housing Act when it refused to allow the operation of a sober living home for persons in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction in a residential neighborhood.
The settlement, which still must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, resolves a lawsuit that the department filed in November 2020. This settlement also resolves a related suit brought by the sober living home’s owner and operator, Trinity Sober Living LLC.
“Local governments do not have the right to use zoning laws and restrictions as a vehicle to discriminate against people with disabilities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to vigorous enforcement of federal law to ensure that individuals in recovery have access to the housing and support they need to maintain their sobriety and lead productive lives.”
“Individuals with disabilities – including those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction – should not be excluded from living in residential neighborhoods,” said U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. for the Northern District of Illinois. “Such discrimination by local governments is forbidden under the Fair Housing Act.”
The department’s lawsuit alleged that the village of Hinsdale violated the Fair Housing Act after it denied a reasonable accommodation request by Trinity Sober Living LLC to operate a sober living home with ten residents and a house manager in a residential neighborhood. The complaint alleged that, one day after Trinity requested an accommodation, the village sued Trinity in state court for violations of the zoning code, including that the home was a “commercial use” and would have more than three unrelated adults.
Under the settlement, the village will amend its zoning ordinance to comply with federal anti-discrimination laws, including permitting homes for persons with disabilities in residential districts, with the same size limitations applied to families of similar size, and implementing a reasonable accommodation policy. The village will also pay $790,000 in monetary damages to Trinity as well as a civil penalty of $10,000 to the United States. The village also agreed to take a number of other actions to guard against housing discrimination, including training village officials and employees about their obligations under federal law, designating a fair housing compliance officer and reporting periodically to the Justice Department.
Trinity Sober Living LLC is represented by Kennedy Hunt P.C., a civil rights law firm in St. Louis, and Esposito and Staubus LLP, a law firm in Burr Ridge, Illinois.
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 1-833-591-0291 or submit a report online at civilrights.justice.gov. Individuals may also contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or through its website at https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp. Individuals may also report housing discrimination, and other forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities, to the U.S. Attorney’s Office at (312) 353-5300.