A company that provides sober-living homes is suing the cities of Anoka and Cambridge for limiting the number of people in recovery who can stay in their properties.
One Love Housing LLC is fighting both cities in court after city officials denied its applications that would increase the number of potential clients seeking help with alcoholism and addiction. Both cities have pointed to local ordinances limiting the number of unrelated people allowed to live in homes together.
The St. Paul-based company provides housing for people in recovery for substance abuse and people with disabilities. In the lawsuits, the company is citing discrimination against the current residents under the federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Fabian Hoffner, general counsel for the Minnesota Association of Sober Homes, said these living situations give residents the opportunity to “learn how to live in a community again.” He said the homes are unique because tenants have to be sober for at least a month, attend at least three recovery meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous each week and follow rules including not using drugs or alcohol while staying there. The house does not offer treatment or counseling services.
“People who live in Anoka and Cambridge want to live in their own communities while they get better so that’s why new sober houses are moving into these places,” Hoffner said.
One Love Housing filed its lawsuit against the city of Anoka in federal court May 10.
Anoka Mayor Phil Rice said that council members discussed One Love Housing’s application in November to allow up to seven people to live in the house there. But he said council members believed that four unrelated people in the house — the city’s current ordinance — is realistic. He said they want to continue supporting the law as it was written.
“We’ve lived with that ordinance without any controversy or trouble until One Love came,” Rice said. “The burden of proof is that they have to prove this is something that’s necessary. ... I think the long and short of it was simply the council was not convinced.”
It’s not the first time One Love Housing has gone to court over its sober-living homes.
The city of Cambridge sued the company in September, alleging the company violated city zoning ordinances after saying it was moving forward with plans to house more than the six people the city previously authorized.
Cambridge city officials believe the house has more than a dozen people in it, according to the complaint.
City officials said in its complaint that they had not approved any permits for One Love Housing to make modifications to the number of people in the home and that the company’s plan to create an extra bedroom in the basement violated fire codes.
One Love Housing sued the City of Cambridge in federal court, but a judge sent the case back to Isanti County District Court after finding the higher court did not have jurisdiction over the case.