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Springfield Settlement Talks Extended; Study Finds ‘Disability Bias’ Most Common Housing Complaint

National Fair Housing Alliance

Jacksonville city attorneys have been granted a deadline extension as they grapple with the details of a settlement allowing for a Springfield apartment complex for the disabled and chronically homeless.

The U.S. Justice Department found the city violated disability and fair housing laws when it rejected the permit for the complex sought by nonprofit Ability Housing.

A new national survey finds disability prejudice is the most common form of housing discrimination.

To prevent a court battle with Ability Housing, Disability Rights Florida and the DOJ,city leaders settled to pay $2 million for a lost grant and to set up a new grant for a disability housing program. The agreement also requires the city to revamp zoning rules.

But details have stalled in city council because some members say the settlement is confusing or too vague.

Jacksonville attorney Jason Teale said that’s partially why an April 30 deadline was extended by at least a month.

“If we’re really close and it looks like we just need a little bit more time, that deadline can still be extended,” he said.

For its recent study of housing discrimination, the Washington D.C.-based National Fair Housing Alliance mined complaints filed with local fair housing organizations and the federal government. Director Lisa Rice said there were more than 28,000 in 2016 alone.

“The majority of those complaints that we see relate to disability. So, people with disabilities who are alleging that they have experienced some form of housing discrimination,” she said.

Seventy four disability-related complaints were filed with the Jax Area Legal Aid last year.

Opponents of the housing project say they’re concerned problem tenants could drive down property values and that community members weren’t given enough input in shaping the settlement.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.