On January 27, 2020, Relman Colfax filed this disability rights lawsuit against the City of Howell, Michigan, its mayor, and its community development director for obstructing a plan to open a sober living home for women recovering from substance use disorders. The complaint raises claims under the Fair Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Michigan's Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act.
The suit, brought on behalf of Amber Reineck House, its founder and President, Courtney Atsalakis, and the Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan, alleges that defendants have—over the past two years—responded to community opposition by engaging in a concerted effort to prevent Amber Reineck House from opening a sober living home for women in Howell.
After the 2015 death of her sister, Amber Reineck, from a fentanyl overdose, Ms. Atsalakis founded Amber Reineck House in 2017. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to acquiring affordable properties in Michigan to provide housing and support services for individuals recovering from substance use disorders. Its current focus is on opening a sober living home for women in Livingston County, Michigan—where the only other sober living options are for men.
Shortly after Ms. Atsalakis acquired the house in Howell in 2018, fierce community opposition to the plan arose based on the disabilities of the prospective residents of the home. In response to that opposition, the City has taken various steps to block the home from opening, including imposing and repeatedly extending a moratorium on special land use applications to allow unrelated persons to live together in a single-family house, rejecting Ms. Atsalakis's reasonable accommodation requests for exceptions from the City's zoning laws, and proposing an amended zoning ordinance that would subject sober living homes and other group homes for people with disabilities to onerous, discriminatory requirements not imposed on other types of housing.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
The Relman Colfax case team is led by Michael Allen, Sara Pratt, and Joseph Wardenski, with assistance from paralegal Amalia Perez. The firm is co-counseling with Stephen Dane of Dane Law LLC and Robin Wagner of Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers PC.