City Council approves settlement over homeless housing in Springfield

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter, News4Jax.com Staff

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday approved a settlement agreement that resolves three lawsuits against the city and changes the zoning code after a years-long battle stemming from a plan to turn a Springfield building into apartments for the homeless.

The dispute dates back to March 2014, when Ability Housing planned to build 12 units of housing for homeless veterans on Cottage Avenue.

But some Springfield neighbors were concerned the housing project would attract bad tenants to the area, prompting the city to use a zoning rule to stop the project. 

In late 2015, Ability Housing sued the city, claiming it “bent to the will of a vocal group of Springfield residents" when it denied the project. A week later, the group Disability Rights Florida filed a similar suit. A year later, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit, saying the denial was discriminatory and violated both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.

At Tuesday night's meeting, the City Council agreed to change the zoning codes.

The settlement agreement also calls for Ability Housing to receive $400,000 in damages and legal fees, and requires the city of Jacksonville to grant $1.5 million toward housing for people with disabilities.

Ability Housing, which lost grant funding for the Cottage Avenue Project when the city block its original plan, would have to bid to get the new contract. 

The city must also implement training and compliance measures outlined by the Department of Justice as terms of the settlement. 

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