November 28, 2012
HUD CHARGES OWNER, ARCHITECT, BUILDER AND DESIGNERS OF MISSOURI CONDOMINIUM COMPLEX WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Common areas and units inaccessible to persons with disabilities
KANSAS CITY, KS - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has charged the owner, architect, builder and designers of Valle Creek Condominiums in Pevely, Missouri with violating the Fair Housing Act by failing to design and construct the units so that they are accessible to persons with disabilities.
According to HUD's charge, the complex is inaccessible because, among other things, steps and inaccessible curb ramps prevent persons using wheelchairs from getting to the units, the clubhouse and many of the common areas.
The Fair Housing Act requires that multifamily housing structures built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, contain accessible features for persons with disabilities. The requirements include accessible common areas, bathrooms and kitchens, as well as wider doors and environmental controls that can be reached by persons who use wheelchairs. The failure to include these features violates the Fair Housing Act.
"Wheelchair users can never feel at home if their housing has obstacles that the Fair Housing Act intended to eliminate almost 25 years ago," said Betty Bottiger, HUD's Region VII Director for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "HUD is committed to enforcing the nation's fair housing laws and creating greater housing opportunities for persons with disabilities."
Terri Porter, Deputy Regional Director, added: "Everyone involved in the design and construction of new multifamily dwellings needs to be aware of their responsibility under the Fair Housing Act and do all they can to build housing that meets the law's requirements."
The complex came to HUD's attention after Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Council (EHOC), a non-profit fair housing advocacy organization, filed a complaint claiming that EHOC testers had found numerous violations of the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements. HUD's charge alleges numerous inaccessible aspects of the complex, including narrow kitchens that make it difficult to use a wheelchair, thermostats that are too high to be reached by persons using wheelchairs, knob-style hardware on the front doors, and mailboxes that cannot be accessed by persons using wheelchairs.
A United States Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will hear HUD's charge. If the ALJ finds after an administrative hearing that discrimination has occurred, the ALJ may award damages to the complainant. In addition, the ALJ may impose fines to vindicate the public interest, order injunctive and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, and require payment of attorney fees.
HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate approximately 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually.
People who believe they have experienced or witnessed unlawful housing discrimination should contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 (voice), or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). More information about fair housing rights is available at HUD's website, www.hud.gov/fairhousing
HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov. You can also follow HUD on Twitter at @HUDgov or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HUD. or sign up for news alerts on HUD's News Listserv.