Seattle Developers Settle Fair Housing Case
The owner, builder, architect, and manager of a Seattle community recently agreed to a settlement with HUD to resolve allegations of disability discrimination by failing to design and construct the 56-unit complex in a way that meets the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
The FHA requires that multifamily dwellings constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, contain certain features, including accessible common areas, bathrooms, kitchens, and doors, and environmental controls that can be reached by persons who use wheelchairs.
In its complaint, HUD alleged that the units, referred to as “apodments,” were inaccessible to persons with disabilities because the walkways were too steep; outlets and thermostatic controls were too high; doors had inaccessible thresholds; and bathrooms did not contain enough space for people using wheelchairs. In addition, HUD alleged that the complex’s mailboxes were too high to be reached by individuals using wheelchairs, and the common laundry room was too narrow for wheelchair access.
Under the settlement, the developer and others agreed to modify the project’s public and common use areas and a unit to enhance accessibility. They also agreed to retain the services of an accessibility consultant to conduct onsite inspections of interiors of covered units in all their other recently constructed projects and to make all recommended accessibility retrofits.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that will provide accessible housing for persons with disabilities,” Dave Ziaya, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. “The design and construction requirements have been the law for more than two decades and HUD will continue to do all it can to ensure that architects and developers meet their legal obligations to comply.”