Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against Dallas Housing Authority

Posted on

August 6, 2018

Robin LeoGrande, President, Community for Permanent Supported Housing, 214-632-8115
Sara Pratt, Attorney, Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, 202-730-0317
Edie Surtees, Communications Director, Disability Rights Texas, 512-407-2739

DALLAS—Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC and Disability Rights Texas filed a lawsuit in federal district court today in Dallas against the Housing Authority of the City of Dallas, Texas, on behalf of the nonprofit Community for Permanent Supported Housing (CPSH) and five families.

The suit alleges that the Dallas Housing Authority (DHA) violated federal civil rights laws by stopping a program that was intended to give low-income adults with disabilities access to community-based housing. The organization and individuals claim that their adult children with disabilities need the housing to be able to live more independently in houses in neighborhoods. Without the housing, which would be federally funded through HUD’s project-based voucher program, their family members could be at risk of homelessness or institutionalization.

DHA’s cancellation of the program, they allege, denied their rights of their disabled children to live in the most integrated setting that was appropriate for them and disregarded the families’ rights to request a reasonable accommodation s to allow a property owner’s family member to live in a property while receiving rent subsidies. They seek a court order requiring DHA to implement the program across its service area and other remedies.

Because of DHA’s actions, Community for Permanent Supported Housing has been unable to assist many adults with disabilities who should move into less restricted housing under DHA’s Project-Based Voucher program. For many people with disabilities in the seven counties in DHA’s service area, such a program would help avoid the risk of homelessness and institutionalization.

The other plaintiffs are Cynthia Curtis, Mary Hubbard, Irene Niemotka, Peggy Shadduck, and Kelly Waterman, parents living in the Dallas, Texas Area, who because of DHA’s actions are unable assist their adult children with disabilities to move into community-based housing under DHA’s Project-Based Voucher program.

The lawsuit resulted after CPSH tried unsuccessfully to have DHA implement the program without the need for litigation.  “We chose to try to resolve this issue first with DHA, expecting DHA to review our evidence and implement changes to secure, maintain, and market its Project-Based Voucher Program for people with disabilities,” said Robin LeoGrande, President of COMMUNITY FOR PERMANENT SUPPORTED HOUSING.  “However, even after discussing this with DHA leadership and legal counsel we saw no effort by DHA to implement the Project-Based Voucher Program for people with disabilities that it announced in 2016 and then cancelled.”

The 2013 Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Role of Housing in Accomplishing the Goals of Olmstead outlined the importance of housing opportunities for people with disabilities in HUD-funded housing.  “[I]ndividuals with disabilities, like individuals without disabilities, should have choice and self-determination in housing and in the health care and related support services they receive. For this reason, HUD is committed to offering individuals with disabilities housing options that enable them to make meaningful choices about housing, health care, and long-term services and supports so they can participate fully in community life.”

The plaintiffs claim that when DHA halted the process for Project-Based Vouchers for housing in 2016, it interfered with the availability of community-based housing for persons with disabilities and it effectively denied individual persons with disabilities the ability to be considered for housing opportunities, whether or not they might ultimately reside in housing owned by a close relative. DHA’s actions have resulted in foreclosure of availability of community-based housing with people with disabilities.

“In the DFW area over 100,000 people with disabilities have at least one challenge to living Independently.  Many are at risk of homelessness and institutionalization. There is currently affordable housing across the state for only three percent of this population.  The plaintiffs want to ensure the housing rights of people with disabilities are upheld and access to community-based housing increases.  The Dallas Housing Authority should be an important participant in this effort,” says Robin LeoGrande.

Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC is a national civil rights law firm based in Washington, DC. The firm litigates civil rights cases in the areas of housing, lending, employment, public accommodations, education, and police accountability. Our national practice includes individual and class action lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs who have suffered discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, national origin, color, religion, sex (including gender identity), disability, age, familial status, source of income, and sexual orientation.

Disability Rights Texas is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Texas. Its mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society.

Community for Permanent Supported Housing is a charity that creates housing options with the North Texas community for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and social challenges regardless of IQ, as well as educational services for these adults and their families to encourage independent living.