Civil Rights and Fair Housing

In 2007, South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC), a non-profit, anti-poverty agency, made the difficult decision to file a federal lawsuit to ensure and affirm the rights of disadvantaged, disabled people to safe, decent affordable housing. SMOC was experiencing extreme difficulties and facing tremendous barriers that certain officials of the town of Framingham had put in place to block the establishment of housing opportunities for disabled people.

The costs of these discriminatory tactics were high in both human and financial terms. Guided by the belief that the nation’s civil rights laws protected the rights of people to fair housing choices, SMOC decided to pursue federal court action. It was clear that the cost of doing nothing to protect the rights of the vulnerable, disabled population served by the agency simply became too high. To accept ongoing discriminatory behavior and hostility towards those who are least able to protect themselves would have constituted a failure on the part of the agency to meet its mission of helping people in need.

The housing that was at the center of the controversy was housing that we were proposing to be made available for veterans with substance abuse and mental health service needs and housing for young families who are committed to living in recovery and moving forward to successful independent living

After many months of legal process and delays, the federal court issued a ruling in August of 2010. In reviewing SMOC’s assertions in this federal case, U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock pointed out that reasonable people could conclude that the town violated the federal law governing access to housing by disabled people.

Shortly after Judge Woodlock’s ruling, SMOC and the Town of Framingham entered into negotiations to settle the case. In the settlement agreement that ensued and which was signed off on by Judge Woodlock, the Town of Framingham agreed to follow federal and state laws which protect the rights of the disabled in future permitting matters and to the training of town officials concerning the rights of the disabled under federal anti-discrimination laws. The Town also agreed to pay SMOC a $1million dollar settlement.

SMOC embraced the settlement agreement because it affirmed that federal civil rights law supports the right of every person in our community to have a place to call home.

For almost fifty years, SMOC has worked to meet its mission of assisting the disabled by connecting them to housing, education, employment, health and other important community resources. We are thankful that the lawsuit is behind us and we look forward to working together with the Town of Framingham to advance the opportunities for disabled people to live successfully in our community.

Final Settlement Agreement

Antipoverty group to get $1m in suit: Said town violated clients' civil rights: The Boston Globe; 10/27/10, Noonan, Erica

LAWSUIT OVER: Framingham agrees to pay SMOC $1m: The Metrowest Daily News; 10/27/10, Ameden, Danielle

Summary Judgement Decision

Jim Cuddy's Statement on the Judge's Decision

Metrowest Daily News Coverage

Public Offer to Settle

Related News Stories:

7/15/09, McDonald, D., Metrowest Deaily News: Selectmen Meet to Discuss SMOC Offer, No Public Response Yet

7/14/09, McDonald, D., Metrowest Deaily News: SMOC Offers to Drop Lawsuit Against Framingham, with Conditions Attached

Link To Complaint:

Summary of the Complaint

Organizational Chart of the Town of Framingham

The Full Verified Complaint [6 mbs/ 99 pages]

Exhibits 1-20 [4 mbs/ 89 pages]

Exhibits 21 - 29 [8 mbs/ 143 pages]

Exhibits 30 - 59 [7 mbs/132 pages]

Exhibits 60 - 75 [7 mbs/ 130 pages]

Exhibits 76 - 83 [6 mbs/ 106 pages]

Exhibits 84 - 92 [4 mbs/ 76 pages]

Tab A [1 mb/ 13 pages]

Press:

Metrowest Daily News: Cuddy, J., Guest Columnist: SMOC seeks 'Respectful Dialogue' with Framingham (10/28/08)

Metrowest Daily News: D. McDonald, Federal Investigators to Probe Framingahm Over SMOC Case (3/14/08)

Boston Globe: J., Ellement, Bias Probe Targets Framingham (3/13/08)

Metrowest Daily News (2/1/08): Funding for SMOC Suit Defense Questioned

Metrowest Daily News: Cuddy: Why SMOC Sued in Framingham (10/28/07)

Boston Globe Article: Antipoverty group sues Framingham over rights (10/25/07)