A federal court signed off on a comprehensive settlement March 9 with the Department of Justice and an Alabama-based housing developer accused of building more than 2,500 inaccessible housing units in four states.
“Our country prohibits discrimination because of an individual’s disability, and our laws guarantee all people the right to access housing of their choice,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, in a news release. “We will continue aggressively enforcing the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that residential multi-family housing is built with the required accessible features.”
In September 2015, the DOJ sued Gateway Companies in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging a variety of allegations under the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The 105-page complaint included claims the developer built 71 multifamily complex with building entrances only accessible by steps and excessively steep slopes, units built with insufficient maneuvering space in bathrooms and kitchens, and inaccessible parking. Of the 71 units at issue, 69 were built with the assistance of federal low-income housing tax credits and related programs. The complexes were built in Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.
Under the settlement, Gateway Companies will create a $300,000 settlement fund for individuals impacted by the accessibility violations, as well as pay a $50,000 civil penalty. The fund must be created within six months and provide a one-year window for potential beneficiaries to apply.
It will also retrofit the buildings and hire an independent inspector to ensure compliance.