Houston Matters

Was the City of Beaumont Intentionally Trying to Restrict People with Disabilities from Living There?

Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department announced that the City of Beaumont agreed to pay $475,000 and change its zoning and land use practices to resolve a lawsuit alleging it discriminated against people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who sought to live in small group homes in the city’s residential neighborhoods. The settlement stems from […]

Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department announced that the City of Beaumont agreed to pay $475,000 and change its zoning and land use practices to resolve a lawsuit alleging it discriminated against people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who sought to live in small group homes in the city’s residential neighborhoods.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed last year charging the city violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act when it imposed a one-half mile spacing rule. It also criticized the city for imposing fire code requirements exceeding those required by the state.

Were those moves intentionally designed to restrict people with disabilities from living in Beaumont?

We seek out the views of Lex Frieden, director of the Independent Living Research Utilization program at TIRR Memorial Hermann, professor of biomedical informatics at UTHealth, and one of the architects of the ADA. We also talk with Matthew Festa, professor of law at South Texas College of Law and a research scholar at Rice, about what the Fair Housing Act and the ADA require of municipalities — and the challenge of balancing local government authority over land use with federal fair housing requirements.

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