Justice Department Settles Disability Discrimination Suit Against Michigan Developer and Architect
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that the developer and designers of an apartment complex in Washington Township, Mich., have agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that they violated the Fair Housing Act when they designed and constructed a 200 unit apartment complex with steps to the front door and other barriers that make it inaccessible to persons with disabilities.
Under the agreement, which must still be approved by the court, developer, Enclave Development LLC, will make extensive modifications to the complex over the next three years to improve accessibility, and Enclave Development and the other defendants will pay $30,000 to compensate persons who have been harmed by the inaccessible design and construction. The case was investigated and brought jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
“Our federal laws guarantee that persons with disabilities have choices about where they live,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Enforcement actions like this one illustrate the department’s commitment to removing barriers so that housing is accessible and available for persons with disabilities.”
“The law requires access to housing for people with disabilities, including returning veterans and others with impaired mobility,” said Barbara L. McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. “This case is important so that our disabled citizens are not excluded from housing opportunities, which affect every other aspect of life, such as access to transportation, schools and jobs.”
The proposed consent order would settle a lawsuit filed by the department on Jan.12, 2009. Under the settlement, the defendants will:
Make retrofits to all 200 units in the complex to make them more accessible;
Ensure that future or ongoing construction meets the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act; and
Establish a $30,000 fund to pay individuals who were harmed by the lack of accessible features at the properties.
The lawsuit arose after the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit conducted accessibility testing at the Enclave Apartments and provided the testing results to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. Defendants include the developer, The Enclave Development LLC; the architects who designed the complexes, Robert Lipka P.C., and Chester Stempien and Associates; and the civil engineer, MCS Associates Inc.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. Among other things, the act requires all multifamily housing constructed after March 12, 1991 to have basic accessibility features, including accessible routes without steps to all ground floor units. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination at the Enclave Apartments should call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, mailbox number 95, or the U.S. Attorney’s Office civil rights hotline at 313-226-9151, or email the Justice Department at email@example.com. Individuals who believe they may have been victims of housing discrimination may also contact Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.