The CRA/LA, the successor of the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, agreed to pay $3.1 million to settle allegations that its predecessor violated the False Claims Act, according to a statement from the Justice Department.
The agency and the city face claims that they received funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) while falsely claiming they were in compliance with accessibility laws.
The Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles and the city of Los Angeles itself received local and federal funding for affordable housing development. As such, they were subject to federal accessibility laws, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Fair Housing Act.
Federal funding also requires maintaining a publicly available list of accessible housing units with descriptions of their accessibility features and having a designated individual tasked with addressing accessibility needs.
In at least nine multifamily housing properties, the Community Redevelopment Agency “fell significantly short” of accessibility regulations.
“Despite millions of dollars of federal taxpayer money sent to Los Angeles to create affordable housing over many years, the CRA opted to lie about its failure to ensure that these projects were accessible to everyone,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna for the Central District of California.
The claims brought against the agency allege that ramps at some properties were too steep for wheelchairs; kitchen cabinets, and shelving were not within reach of people in wheelchairs; there were not enough accessible parking spaces; and more.
“The basic tenant of fair housing translates into the premise of equal access for all, this is to include those citizens that face physical and functional challenges,” said Inspector General Rae Oliver Davis of HUD. “This settlement reaffirms this office’s steadfast resolve to ensure those who receive federal housing funds abide by this fundamental principle.”
Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division said the settlement “demonstrates our continuing vigilance” that organizations receiving grants abide by the conditions of the grant.
“Grant recipients who knowingly discriminate against people with disabilities using taxpayer money will face serious consequences,” Hunt said.
Despite the $3.1 million settlement, this case has yet to be fully resolved. Claims against the city are outstanding.
“This settlement resolves only a small portion of this case, and we are prepared to litigate additional allegations that the city of Los Angeles covered up its failure to comply with federal laws enacted to protect the civil rights of all citizens,” Hanna said.
The lawsuit was brought by a Los Angeles resident and the Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley, a nonprofit that advocates for civil rights.
The Department of Justice clarified that at this point there are “allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.”
The settlement is “an important step” in ensuring those receiving government funds spend the funding “for their intended purpose,” said Todd Yoder in an article on The National Law Review.