Court Allows FHA Claim By Sober Living Home Operator To Proceed To Trial

ober living homes are often controversial and draw the ire of local residents who object to having such operations in residential neighborhoods. However, as individuals recovering from substance abuse issues are treated as disabled under the Fair Housing Act ("FHA") and Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"), municipal attempts to restrict or close such facilities can run afoul of federal law. This is the situation in Swanson v. Cit of Plano, 4:19-cv-412.

The case centers on a sober living home run by Women's Elevated Sober Living LLC, and located on property owned by Constance Swanson. Since 2018, the home has housed 15 to 19 unrelated residents, despite a City ordinance limiting occupants to eight unrelated individuals plus two caregivers. After being informed of the violation, Swanson applied for a variance as a reasonable accommodation. After a public hearing with more than 50 residents in opposition, the Board of Adjustments denied the variance. Swanson then filed suit under the FHA and ADA, alleging that the ordinance discriminated against individuals with disabilities.

The City filed four motions for summary judgment. Three of these motions addressed procedural issues or standing, but each was rejected by the Court. The City's final motion asserted that Swanson's claim that the City's ordinance was facially discriminatory lacked merit as a matter of law, and should be dismissed.

Swanson's claim turned on the definitions of (1) "Household," which permits "one or more individuals related by blood, marriage, adoption... and not more than 4 adult unrelated individuals....", and (2) "Household Care Facility," which allows not more than 8 unrelated persons, plus two caregivers. The Court held that these definitions were not dispositive evidence of discrimination, but met Plaintiff's prima facie burden. In response, the City cited its non-discriminatory grounds for the ordinance, namely "promoting the general welfare, promoting family values, and controlling density." Ultimately, the Court held that Plaintiff has raised a genuine issue of fact as to whether the City's reasons for the ordinance were pretextual, and denied the City's final motion for summary judgment.

Powered by 123ContactForm | Report abuse