NY Developer, Owner, Construction Company, and Architect Accused of Disability Discrimination

HUD recently charged a New York-based developer, owner, construction company, and architect with housing discrimination for failing to design and construct a condominium development in the Long Island City area of Queens, N.Y., in compliance with the accessibility requirements of federal fair housing law. The Fair Housing Act requires that multifamily housing built after March 1991 contain accessible features for people with disabilities. Requirements include accessible common areas, bathrooms, and kitchens, as well as wider doors and environmental controls that can be reached by residents who use wheelchairs. The failure to include these features is unlawful and makes the property difficult or impossible to use by people with disabilities.

HUD's charge resulted from a fair housing complaint that was filed by a resident, alleging that the developers and architect had designed and constructed the building with numerous inaccessible features, a violation of fair housing law.

During its investigation, HUD conducted an on-site inspection of the building and allegedly discovered extensive design and construction deficiencies. Specifically, HUD said it found deficiencies in the property's main entrance, hallways connecting common areas, shared outdoor terrace, patios, refuse rooms, and parking garage. Moreover, HUD allegedly found widespread violations inside individual units, including inaccessible doors, bathrooms, kitchens, and environmental controls. The charge will be heard by an administrative law judge unless any party elects to take the case to federal court.

"It can be very difficult for persons with disabilities to live in housing that does not meet the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements," Anna María Farías, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. "If, for example, a unit has stairs at its entry, that unit is effectively unavailable to persons with mobility impairments."

"These accessibility requirements have been in effect since 1991 so responsible developers and construction professionals know well how to comply with them," said Paul Compton, HUD's General Counsel. "This Charge represents HUD's commitment to ensuring the residential construction industry designs and builds housing that is reasonably accessible to persons with disabilities."