FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
MONDAY, MARCH 7, 2005
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SETTLES HOUSING DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT AGAINST IDAHO DEVELOPERS, ARCHITECTS AND ENGINEERS
WASHINGTON, DC - The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with two developers, two architectural firms and four engineering firms based in Idaho that designed and constructed multifamily housing complexes, resolving a lawsuit that alleged disability-related housing discrimination. The agreement, which still must be approved by the U.S. District Court in Boise, affects over 700 ground floor apartments in 31 apartment complexes in four states.
“Accessible housing is crucial to individuals with disabilities,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “The law requires that architects, engineers and others provide for accessibility when they build covered multifamily dwellings, and this case is another step towards ensuring compliance with the law.”
The defendants, Thomas Development Co.; Links Properties, LLC; Centurion Properties LLC; Thomas C. Mannschreck; Wilson Architectural; Ziegler-Tamura LTD. Co.; Ralph “Rocky” Towle; Eric Hasenoehrl; Hubble Engineering, Inc.; and EHM Engineers, Inc. were responsible for the design and construction of apartment complexes in Idaho as well as Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. They have agreed to settle the government’s suit by making accessibility retrofits to the units and the complexes’ common areas. The agreement also requires that the defendants establish a $100,000 fund to compensate individuals injured by the inaccessible housing, and pay $15,000 to the Intermountain Fair Housing Council and $10,000 in civil penalties to the government.
Individuals who believe they may have been harmed by the lack of accessible features at the apartment complexes that may have been designed or constructed by any of these defendants may call the Justice Department’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section at 800-896-7743, extension 6. Additional information is available on the Justice Department’s website at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing.
The case began when the Intermountain Fair Housing Council, a fair housing rights organization in Idaho, filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD referred the complaint to the Justice Department, which conducted an investigation and filed suit in February 2002 after determining that several properties designed and constructed by the defendants did not comply with the Fair Housing Act.
“HUD and the Justice Department are committed to enforcing those laws that protect the rights of persons with disabilities,” said Carolyn Peoples, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at HUD. “With 52.6 million Americans living with some type of physical disability, it is imperative that we ensure that they have access to the kind of housing that meets their needs, free from discrimination.”
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status (having children under 18 years old), national origin and disability. Since January 21, 2001, the Division has filed 63 cases under the Fair Housing Act alleging discrimination based on disability, 31 of which alleged violations of the Act’s design and construct provisions.