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Ignorance Of The Law Is No Excuse

Updated: Jan 29

People With Disabilities Win Fair Housing Case Against Springfield



Zach Roth ~ Springfield State Journal- Register USA TODAY NETWORK

A federal court has blocked the city of Springfield from enforcing a local housing ordinance that prevented people with disabilities from living within 600 feet of each other, over a year after damages were awarded in the case.


Sara Darrow, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, ruled last week that the city could not take any action against the owners of a home at 2328 South Noble Avenue, Individual Advocacy Group – a state-licensed provider of services to the home – or any similar residence to enforce the ordinance.


The city will also have to pay about $62,000 in damages for violations of the federal Fair Housing Act, which the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 2020. IAG will receive $53,654 in prejudgment interest, as well. According to the federal government, the civil penalty is among the largest ever obtained against a municipality in Illinois for FHA violations.


In their ruling, the court said that the ordinance was “facially discriminatory”, noting that there wasn’t any credible justification for enforcing the rule, which states that no “family care residence” should be built in residential neighborhoods unless it is more than 600 feet away from each other, is licensed by the state and it had permission from the city to operate in such a manner.


The conflict first arose in 2014, when three disabled people moved into the home owned by Christine and Robyn Hovey on Noble Avenue, which

was near another, similar, home run by Sparc, a Springfield-based non-profit that also provides services to those with a wide range of mental and physical disabilities.


In August 2016, the Hoveys were told by the city that a complaint had been filed against the home, accusing them of violating the spacing ordinance. They soon filed for a conditional permitted use (CPU) under the ordinance, which was rejected by the Springfield City Council in a 8-2 vote on Dec. 20, 2016.


Two days later, Mary B. Valencia, sister and guardian of Alan Dennis, one of the home’s residents, filed a lawsuit against the city in U.S. District Court, along with IAG. The initial complaint stated that the city prevented the residents from having “an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling in a residential neighborhood.”


The federal government joined the case in 2017 through the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, adding a third plaintiff.


In March 2020, the court ruled for the plaintiffs, saying that the city was in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and granted a motion for summary judgment in the case. COVID-19 pushed the jury trial for damages into 2022, and in July, the jury ruled that $293,000 in damages would have to be paid to the residents, their families and IAG.


The federal government continued to pursue the injunction and the civil penalty, which were both granted by Darrow Tuesday.


Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said that the court made clear to the city that there were consequences to violating the Fair Housing Act and that restrictive zoning laws like Springfield’s weren’t acceptable in the marketplace.


“Discriminatory zoning laws that ban people with disabilities from living in the community violate the Fair Housing Act,” Clarke said. “Restrictive zoning laws and policies that prevent people with disabilities from integrating into society at large have no place in our marketplace today. The Court’s decision makes clear that there are real consequences to cities and other municipalities when they unlawfully and immorally exclude people with disabilities from residential neighborhoods.”


Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Grant, who represented the government in the case, said that they would continue to work with the Justice Department to ensure fair access to housing within the Central District.


“This case illustrates what can happen when government action erodes a basic civil right: a group of individuals almost lost their home,” Grant said. “As many Springfield residents have expressed to our office, our community should be open to everyone, including individuals with disabilities."


The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work with the Department of Justice to ensure that the Fair Housing Act’s guarantee of equal housing and access to justice is available to all citizens in the Central District of Illinois.”


The city and IAG did not respond to requests for comment.

RULE 115 UPDATE ON PROXIMITY REQUIREMENT AND WAIVER PROCESS

As stakeholders are aware, Rule 115 (59 Ill. Adm. Code 115), the CILA rule, went into effect May 31, 2023. In the final rule, there are changes to the limits placed on provider-controlled sites that are clustered or within a specific proximity of each other. Specifically, the updated Rule 115 states: “Any new provider-owned or controlled CILA site for individuals in the DDD Medicaid HCBS Waiver must comply with the federal settings rules’ requirements and shall only be eligible for funding from the Department if:

1. Subject to the proximity waiver process in subsection (j), it is not adjacent to (next to, across, or diagonal from or immediately behind) any Medicaid HCBS waiver-funded residential or day program site or property owned or controlled by the same CILA provider;


2. It is not located in a building that is also a publicly or privately-operated facility that provides inpatient institutional treatment;


3. It is not located in a building on the grounds of, or adjacent to, a publicly or privately-operated facility that provides inpatient institutional treatment; or


4. It is not any of the settings defined in 42 CFR 441.301(c)(5).”

For proposed new provider-controlled sites, prior to building, acquiring or providing services at sites that do not comply with the proximity requirement in the updated Rule 115 language, a provider must request a proximity waiver application form from DDD via DHS.HCBS@illinois.gov.  The new proximity waiver request form will be sent to a provider and will ask the provider to lay out how the sites will comply with best practices around the Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Settings Rule requirements. In addition, the proximity waiver application and process require that any new site applying for the proximity waiver must be physically accessible and, if residential, must be a CILA for three (3) people with single occupancy bedrooms.


For current provider-controlled sites that previously received annual proximity waivers through the Bureau of Accreditation, Licensure, and Certification (BALC), they should have received a permanent proximity waiver that was sent by BALC prior to the finalization of Rule 115. Providers should retain that letter for their records, and no further proximity waivers are needed for those sites.


As a reminder, the proximity limits and waiver process, only apply to provider-controlled sites. Rule 115 does not limit individuals as to where they can live in individually controlled homes. For more information or questions, please email DHS.HCBS@illinois.gov.

CHECK OUT THIS OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK UP ON THE IDHS STRATEGIC PLANNING SURVEY

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is working with the Civic Consulting Alliance and Accenture on a strategic planning process. As part of this work, Accenture has released a survey for individuals to complete regarding how to better support Illinois residents and communities.


For those interested in participating, please fill out the below questionnaire. Illinois residents who qualify and complete the full study receive a $50 reward. Responses will be treated confidentially and will only be shared with a small team of researchers. Participation in this research will not affect an individual’s ability to receive benefits.

Fill out the survey here. Complete la encuesta aquí.

ICYMI: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW...2023 DSP SURVEY REPORT, INSIGHTS, KEY FINDINGS

Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) organizations need insights into the care and experience of direct support professionals (DSPs). Turnover and retention, continuing education, and the health and well-being of staff are the three main areas covered in the 2023 DSP Survey Report.

This year was the third Relias DSP Survey Report, which allowed us to draw on findings from the past two reports to give insight into the field's pre-, mid-, and post-pandemic state.

Check out our high-level insights infographic, the on-demand webinar highlighting our on-staff subject matter experts' results, and the 2023 DSP Survey Report below to learn what DSPs think and how they feel about their organizations.

· Executive Insights | Relias DSP Survey Report

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