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04.01.2019

A systemic challenge to the inaccessibility of Chicago’s massive affordable rental housing program will proceed, following the March 29, 2019, decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denying every element of the City’s motion to dismiss. 

Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr. held that Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago had standing to pursue its claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Act that Chicago’s 50,000-unit portfolio is built and operated in a way that excludes people with disabilities.  He also found that Access Living’s “detailed, well-organized 44-page complaint easily satisfies” the requirement to describe the extent of the City’s failings, and adequately describes how “the City’s practices constitute a continuing violation” over more than 30 years.

The firm filed a complaint in May 2018 alleging that, because of the City’s failings, thousands low-income Chicagoans with disabilities “struggle to find suitable housing and are often forced to live on the street, in their cars, in nursing homes, in homeless shelters, or in other inadequate and dangerous housing.” Those deficiencies, the complaint claims, reach back 30 years and involve as many as 650 City-supported apartment complexes.

Access Living—one of the country’s leading Centers for Independent Living (CILs)—works to foster an inclusive society that enables Chicagoans with disabilities to live fully-engaged and self-directed lives. As alleged in the complaint, the inaccessibility of Chicago’s affordable housing program directly frustrates its ability to help its clients develop independent living skills.

Beginning in 2012, the firm represented two CILs and a fair housing group in similar litigation against the City of Los Angeles.  Judge Dow’s decision mirrors the November 2012 decision in that case, holding that the plaintiffs had standing to bring similar claims, and had adequately pled accessibility violations. That case resolved in September 2016.  Providing for the construction or remediation of 4,000 highly accessible units (at an estimated cost of $200 million), the comprehensive revision of affordable housing policies, and additional monetary relief of more than $20 million, it remains the largest such settlement in the country.

Relman, Dane & Colfax's litigation team is led by Michael Allen, Jenn Klar, Laura Arandes and Lila Miller.  Ken Walden and Mary Rosenberg of Access Living serve as co-counsel.

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