The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a recent agreement with the owner, builder, architect, and manager of a Seattle apartment complex. The settlement resolved issues stemming from allegations of discrimination against people with disabilities by failing to design and construct the 56-unit complex in a way that meets accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
The Fair Housing Act "requires that multifamily dwellings constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 contain accessible features for persons with disabilities," HUD said in a statement. Specifically, multifamily properties must include accessible common areas, bathrooms, kitchens, and doors, and environment controls that can be reached by people who use wheelchairs.
"We are pleased to have reached an agreement that will provide accessible housing for persons with disabilities," said Dave Ziaya, HUD's Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "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."
The complaint alleged that the owner and builder, Centro LLC; its management company, Calhoun Property Management; and the architect, ECCO Design, designed and constructed units that do not comply with the federal design and construction requirements.
When HUD inspected the complex, which contained units called "apodments," they found that units were inaccessible to people with disabilities.
"For example, the project has walkways that are too steep; outlets and thermostatic controls that are too high to be reached by individuals using wheelchairs; doors with inaccessible thresholds; and bathrooms that do not contain enough space for people using wheelchairs," HUD said. "HUD's inspection also found that the complex has mailboxes that are too high to be reached by individuals using wheelchairs, and a common laundry room that is too narrow for wheelchair access."
To resolve the issues, the owner, builder, and architectural firm will modify the complex's public and common use areas, as well as a unit to increase accessibility. Additionally, the group will retain the services of an accessibility consultant to conduct inspections of interiors and to recommend accessibility retrofits.
HUD noted that the builder, architect, and other responsible individuals will also attend Fair Housing Act design and construction training.