Settlement Reached in NY Inaccessible Design and Construction Case
The Justice Department recently announced a settlement in a fair housing case alleging disability discrimination in the design and construction of three communities, including a senior housing complex, in New York.
Federal fair housing law requires that ground-level units or units that are elevator accessible in communities constructed after 1991 must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. The department alleged that there were hundreds of violations at the communities, including a lack of wheelchair-accessible routes between dwelling units and common areas, excessively steep cross slopes and running slopes on such accessible routes, kitchen sinks and ranges that were inaccessible, outlets and thermostats that were too high or too low, and door thresholds that were too high.
The settlement provides a comprehensive plan to remedy the alleged violations at all three communities. Among other things, the defendants agreed to perform substantial specific retrofits, including fixing the accessible routes, high door thresholds and out-swinging bathroom doors, inaccessible thermostats and outlets, and inaccessible kitchen ranges.
The consent order also provides for relief for four aggrieved parties, who, due to disability, had difficulty moving about their own apartments or throughout the complex because of the alleged violations. The defendants agreed to $32,500 to compensate victims, who include current and former residents, and a nonprofit fair housing organization, whose investigation led to this lawsuit. They also agreed to set aside $5,000 for certain retrofits that will be made at a resident’s request, and pay a $2,500 civil penalty.
“The requirement that new multifamily housing be built in a manner that is accessible to persons with disabilities has been in place since 1991,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement. “We will continue to enforce this protection vigorously so that persons with disabilities are free to live where they choose without facing unnecessary and unlawful barriers.”