City to pay $100K in housing discrimination case

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Discrimination in housing

The city of Scranton, Pennsylvania has agreed to pay $100,000 to compensate six people with disabilities who were evicted from a halfway house.

The individuals previously lived at the Oxford House, a facility for people recovering from alcohol and substance abuse.

In May 2014, a resident of the facility died of an overdose. A subsequent warrantless search by city police of the facility found narcotics in a resident’s room.

Under a municipal ordinance, the city of Scranton has the authority to automatically condemn any property where the owner or occupant had “implied or actual” knowledge of drug activity, according to the Scranton Times-Tribune. Acting pursuant to this ordinance, the city evicted the six individuals from the home, without notice or an opportunity to find alternative housing.

The residents sued the city in October 2014, accusing it of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development stepped in on the plaintiffss behalf, leading to the settlement, announced March 6.

“Persons with disabilities shouldn’t be subjected to the rigid city ordinances that have the practical effect of limiting their housing options,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, in a news release. “We’re pleased that the city has entered into this agreement and look forward to working with its leaders as they strive to meet their obligation to comply with federal fair housing laws.”

In addition, to compensation for the former residents, the settlement agreement requires that the city to amend its ordinance to accommodate people with disabilities prior to evicting them from their homes.

City officials must also develop a city-wide reasonable accommodation policy and provide training to prevent future violations.

More information on HUD’s efforts to prevent discrimination in housing can be found on the HUD website.