The city of Boynton Beach is calling for a total and complete shutdown of new group homes for persons with disabilities entering the city until June 1, 2017 — until their staff can figure out what is going on.
The City Commission voted to have a moratorium on any group homes for persons with disabilities in the city in order to have the ability to study guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development in November that was designed to help state and local governments better understand how to comply with the Fair Housing Act when making zoning and land use decisions. The guidance is a restatement of existing law in an easy to read format to ensure that persons with disabilities are permitted to be integrated into neighborhood, and not to be subject to discriminatory barriers.
In response to this document, the city did the exact opposite as required by the guidance – it built a regulatory wall around the city to bar persons with disabilities from moving into the city. This ban includes all group homes for persons with disabilities, such as group homes for adults with autism, intellectual or developmental disabilities, children who are medically complex and need 24 hour per day medical care or supervision, and persons overcoming drug or alcohol abuse.
The city may not block a group home in response to residents’ stereotypical fears or prejudices about persons with disabilities or a particular type of disability. For example, as a result of this moratorium, a person with a developmental or intellectual disability who would like to move out of his or her parent’s home Boynton Beach, may be required to move out of the city because of the failure to have adequate housing options. If municipalities were permitted to enact similar moratoriums, then persons with disabilities would be relegated to institutional placements or only go to certain “disability friendly” areas.
The acts of the City of Boynton Beach blatantly violates the Florida and Federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and should be contrary to the moral values that we hold dear as Americans.
A “moratorium” on group homes for persons with disabilities, whether temporary or permanent, is unlawful because it deprives persons with disabilities with the right to full participation in the community — that would be deprived to no other person or class of persons if they wished to move to the city of Boynton Beach.
MATTHEW W. DIETZ, MIAMI
Editor’s note: Matthew W. Dietz is founder and litigation director of Disability Independence Group, a nonprofit, South Florida Disability Rights Advocacy center.