Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 19, 2020

Fed. Dist. Court in TX Denies Motion for Summary Judgement on Issue of Standing in Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act

This post was authored by Chirstine Velia, Touro Law Center

Complaint Women’s Elevated Sober Living LLC operates a sober living home under an arrangement with Constance Swanston (a/k/a Swanson).  Swanston leases property to Elevated, serves as a member of the organization, and works to operate the home.  Since opening, the sober home housed fifteen to nineteen unrelated individuals.  Under a municipal zoning ordinance, the City of Plano limits the number of unrelated disabled persons who may live in a single-family dwelling located in a residential neighborhood to eight.  Plano informed Elevated that they were violating zoning restrictions. On Elevated’s behalf, Swanston applied for a variance for a reasonable accommodation to allow up to fifteen unrelated disabled persons to live in the home.  The Plano Board of Adjustments denied the variance request after a public hearing.  Swanston and Elevated filed a complaint under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  Plano subsequently filed a Motion for Summary Judgement, maintaining that Swanston had no individual claims for relief under either the FHA or ADA as a matter of law.

To demonstrate constitutional standing, Swanston must have suffered an injury-in-fact, that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant and that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.  In addition, under the FHA Swanston must also show that her interests fall within the zone of interests protected by the law invoked. The court held that the defendant failed to meet its summary-judgment burden as to Swanston’s FHA and ADA claims.  Federal courts have held that the expenditure of time, cost, and effort confers both FHA and ADA standing on an individual such as Swanston.  Swanston satisfied both tests because she personally spends 20 hours a week or more working with the residents of the sober home directly and working on Elevated’s business.  In addition, Swanston herself prepared and filed the Request for Accommodation.  Because Swanston is a provider of housing and services to residents the FHA designated as disabled, she has standing to sue for injunctive relief to prevent Plano’s ordinance from taking effect and these injuries in fact clearly place Swanston in the zone of interest.  Under the ADA, the Court found Swanston to fall within the zone of interests protected by the statute due to her relationship or association with the provision of services to the disabled.  The Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgement on Plaintiff’s Claims was denied.

Swanson v. City of Plano, 2020 WL 6799173 (E.D. Tex. 11/19/2020)


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