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Lawsuit alleges city violated Fair Housing Act

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The United States has filed a lawsuit against the city of Columbus accusing it of violating the Fair Housing Act because it refused to grant a permit to a nonprofit group that wanted to operate a group home for men recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

The Department of Justice on Wednesday filed the suit, United States of America v. The City of Columbus, Ind., No. 1:09-CV-1225, in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.

In the civil complaint, the federal government says the Columbus Board of Zoning Appeals refused to grant a special use application to Bethesda House in 2007 because of discriminatory attitudes toward recovering addicts among neighboring property owners. The house would hold up to 11 men at a time who are considered "handicapped" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. Section 3602(h).

Bethesda House filed timely complaints with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, alleging discrimination on the basis of disability. HUD referred the cases to the Department of Justice after conducting an investigation.

The United States is asking the court to enjoin Columbus from violating the Fair Housing Act and refusing to allow the operation of Bethesda House. It also asks for monetary damages against each person aggrieved by the city's discriminatory housing practices and a civil penalty.

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