The Look in Brief

Chattanooga enters three-year consent decree with feds over disability, housing discrimination

By: - November 7, 2023 6:01 am
(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

The city of Chattanooga has entered into a three-year consent decree with the federal government following allegations that public officials discriminated against people with disabilities, violated federal civil rights law and the federal Fair Housing Act. 

Under the rules of the agreement entered in federal court Monday, Chattanooga has 60 days to submit proposed changes to its zoning ordinances that explicitly state individuals cannot be denied housing, excluded from city services or subject to discrimination through zoning or land use policies due to a disability. 

Members of the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals, its building inspector, city council members and staff of the city’s building department are among the city personnel who will be required to undergo training on the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act in the next 90 days.

Chattanooga has also agreed to pay a $5,000 penalty to the federal government and $32,000 to Quality Lifestyle Services, Inc, the nonprofit whose efforts to house four people with disabilities in a four-bedroom house in a residential neighborhood were thwarted by the Board of Zoning Appeals. 

City zoning officials asked the nonprofit to obtain a special permit for the individuals to live in the neighborhood, zoned for single family homes, then denied the permit, legal filings said. 

Through their attorneys, Chattanooga officials denied they discriminated against the individuals or violated federal fair housing and disability laws, but agreed to enter the consent decree in order to avoid litigation, the filings said. 

The consent decree filed in court still requires a judge’s sign off. Once formally adopted, it will subject Chattanooga to court supervision for the next three years. The federal government may at any time ask the judge to issue penalties or remedial orders should the city fail to live up to its agreement.  

Chattanooga Consent Decree

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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee.