People in recovery are considered disabled under fair housing law. When the City of Howell blocked Amber Reineck House (a home for women recovering from substance use disorders) from opening, we contacted founder Courtney Atsalakis offering our help. We provided the City with many examples of similar fair housing cases decided in favor of people with disabilities, but the City would not relent.
Ms. Atsalakis decided to file a lawsuit, and the FHC Board voted to join the litigation. The lawsuit alleged that the City of Howell and two of its officials violated the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Michigan’s Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act by engaging in a concerted, ongoing effort to prevent Amber Reineck House from opening a sober living home in a residential neighborhood. Amber Rieneck House was able to open at another location, but only after going through a long, expensive process in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
After three years of litigation Amber Reineck House, Courtney Atsalakis, and the Fair Housing Center accepted a $750,000 settlement to settle the disability rights lawsuit. This settlement is the largest the FHC has ever been involved in and one of the largest settlements of its kind in the Midwest. We hope it sends a signal to local governments who have sought to prevent these types of homes from operating in residential neighborhoods. Amber Reineck House is now operating a sober living home in Howell.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by Relman Colfax PLLC, Dane Law LLC, and Pitt McGhee Palmer & Rivers PC, on January 27, 2020. It was assigned to the Honorable Judge Paul D. Borman.