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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

           Plaintiff,

v.

Case No.

HOUSING AUTHORITY OF
BALTIMORE CITY,

           Defendant.

____________________________________)

COMPLAINT

1. This action is brought by the United States of America to enforce the provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 794, et seq. ("Section 504"), Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134("Title II"), and the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.

2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345; 42 U.S.C. § 12133; 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202; and 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).

3. Venue is proper in this judicial district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) in that the events giving rise to this action occurred in the District of Maryland.

4. Defendant, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City ("HABC"), is the public housing authority for the City of Baltimore. HABC was created by the State of Maryland pursuant to Art. 44A of the Annotated Code of Maryland. HABC is administered by a five (5) member Board of Commissioners through an Executive Director. HABC is responsible for establishing, managing, and operating public and subsidized housing in Baltimore City.

5. HABC is a recipient of federal financial assistance within the meaning of Section 504.

6. HABC is a public entity within the meaning of Title II of the ADA.

7. The public housing units owned and/or operated by HABC are dwellings within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).

8. Upon information and belief, HABC's public housing program consists of forty-six apartment communities and a number of scattered site housing units in Baltimore that are managed and maintained by HABC, and approximately seven apartment communities that are owned by HABC and managed by private companies under contract with HABC.

9. HABC is also responsible for operating Baltimore City's Section 8 housing program. The Section 8 program provides site and tenant-based financial assistance to eligible low-income persons in privately-owned rental housing. Under the Section 8 program, eligible tenants receive vouchers from HABC that can be used in the private housing market to defray the cost of rent.

10. Upon information and belief, HABC operates more than thirteen thousand (13,000) units of public housing in Baltimore. Upon information and belief, fewer than two percent of HABC's public housing units are currently accessible to persons with mobility impairments, and fewer than one percent of HABC's public housing units are currently accessible to persons with vision or hearing impairments.

11. Individuals with disabilities have experienced hardship as a result of HABC's discriminatory conduct, including but not limited to:

  1. A public housing resident who is paralyzed on one side, has other physical disabilities, and uses a wheelchair was unable to access either of the two bathrooms or any of the bedrooms in the three-story housing unit she shared with her four children because all of the bathrooms and bedrooms were on the upper floors. Even if a friend or family member carried her upstairs, the bathroom itself was inaccessible. The resident had been housed in the inaccessible unit for more than five (5) years, after being housed in a different inaccessible HABC housing unit for five (5) years, despite repeated requests that HABC move her to an accessible unit;

  2. A long-time resident of HABC public housing began using a wheelchair when she became paralyzed after contracting an infectious disease. She was living in a two-story HABC unit with three (3) bedrooms and one (1) bathroom, all located on the second floor, and could not access the bathrooms or bedrooms using her wheelchair for over eleven years. Throughout that time, she was also unable to enter or exit her apartment independently, even in the event of a fire or other emergency, since the front door to her unit could only be accessed by climbing steps and there was no paved route up the grassy slope to the unit's rear door. When she requested a transfer to an accessible unit, HABC staff told her there were no public housing units available for people with disabilities. When she asked HABC to install a ramp to allow her to enter and exit her apartment independently, HABC staff told her there were no funds available to build a ramp and that a ramp could not be erected because it would create an obstruction for other people;

  3. Another public housing resident with both physical and mental disabilities had informed HABC that she needed an accessible unit when she applied for public housing. She was placed in an inaccessible unit and repeatedly fell in her bathroom, which did not contain the grab bars she needed. The resident made multiple requests for grab bars to the manager, assistant manager, and maintenance workers at her housing complex that did not result in any action by HABC to fix the problem; and

  4. An individual with a mental disability, who had been seeking to obtain housing through HABC for over ten (10) years, remained on HABC's waiting lists for the Section 8 program and for a public housing unit in one of HABC's family housing developments. When the individual had applied to HABC for housing assistance, he was offered the choice of applying for "Section 8" housing, "public housing" or "senior housing." Despite the fact that the housing described as "senior housing" was actually mixed population housing for which both seniors and nonelderly persons with disabilities were eligible, and that mixed population units typically became available much sooner than units in the family public housing developments, the individual was never informed of this fact. During the period he remained on the waiting list he lived in unstable, substandard housing that aggravated his mental and physical conditions.



COUNT ONE

Violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

12. Defendant has denied persons with disabilities access to its public housing program by failing to make an adequate number of housing units accessible to persons with disabilities, as required by Section 504 and HUD's Section 504 regulations, 24 C.F.R. pt. 8 and pt. 40.

13. Defendant has denied persons with disabilities access to its public housing and other programs by failing to make the common areas of its public housing communities and its administrative offices accessible to persons with disabilities, as required by Section 504 and HUD's Section 504 regulations, 24 C.F.R. pt. 8 and pt. 40.

14. Defendant has excluded nonelderly persons with disabilities from its "mixed population" public housing developments that are designed to serve nonelderly persons with disabilities in addition to seniors.

15. Defendant has also failed to assess the needs of persons with disabilities for accessible housing in a timely manner, failed to maximize the placement of individuals with disabilities in accessible public housing units, and failed to distribute accessible units throughout public housing projects in a sufficient range of sizes and amenities comparable to those available to housing applicants and tenants without disabilities, as required by Section 504 and HUD's Section 504 regulations, including 24 C.F.R. § 8.4, 24 C.F.R. § 8.25(c) and 24 C.F.R. § 8.26.

16. Defendant has failed to grant requests for reasonable accommodation in rules, policies, practices or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, as required by Section 504 and HUD's Section 504 regulations, including 24 C.F.R. § 8.3, 24 C.F.R. 8.24, 24 C.F.R. § 8.28, and 24 C.F.R. § 8.33.

17. Defendant has failed to maintain a current listing of accessible Section 8 units available for rent, failed to assist persons with disabilities to locate accessible Section 8 units available for rent, and failed to encourage property owners who participate in the Section 8 program to make units available and accessible to persons with mobility, vision, and/or hearing impairments, as required by Section 504 and HUD's Section 504 regulations, including 24 C.F.R. § 8.28.

18. By its actions referred to in the foregoing paragraphs, among other things, defendant has subjected qualified individuals with disabilities to discrimination, and has excluded them from participation in and denied them the benefits of programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, on the basis of their disabilities, in violation of Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, et seq., and its implementing regulations, 24 C.F.R. pt. 8 and 24 C.F.R. pt. 40.

19. Defendant's discriminatory conduct as described above has caused injury to other persons, including persons with disabilities and persons associated with them, particularly persons with mobility impairments.

20. Defendant's actions described in the preceding paragraphs were intentional, willful, and taken with disregard for the rights of individuals with disabilities who need public and/or Section 8 housing in Baltimore City.

COUNT TWO

Violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act

21. The allegations set forth in paragraphs 1 through 20 are hereby realleged and incorporated by reference.

22. By failing to make its housing units, common areas, and administrative offices accessible to people with disabilities; improperly excluding nonelderly people with disabilities from mixed population housing; failing to grant requests for reasonable accommodations; and failing to take steps to assist Section 8 participants with disabilities in finding suitable accessible housing, defendant has discriminated against persons with disabilities in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12132 and the Department of Justice's Title II regulations, 28 C.F.R. §§ 35.101 - 35.164.

23. Specifically, defendant has violated 42 U.S.C. § 12132 by, among other things:

  1. Excluding qualified individuals with disabilities from participation in or denying them the benefits of its services, programs and activities in violation of 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(a) and 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(1);

  2. Failing to comply with its obligations to perform a self-evaluation when required by law and to make appropriate modifications to its services, policies, and practices in violation of 28 C.F.R. § 35.105;

  3. Denying qualified individuals with disabilities an opportunity to participate in or benefit from benefits and services that are equal to, and as effective as, those afforded others in violation of 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(1)(ii) and 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(1)(iii);

  4. Failing to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures in violation of 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(7); and

  5. Subjecting persons with disabilities to discrimination and excluding them from participation in, and denying them the benefits of, its services, programs and activities because its facilities are inaccessible to or unusable by individuals with disabilities in violation of 28 C.F.R. § 35.149, 28 C.F.R. § 35.150, and 28 C.F.R. § 35.151.

24. Defendant's discriminatory conduct as described above has caused injury to other persons, including persons with disabilities and persons associated with them, particularly persons with mobility impairments.

25. Defendant's conduct described above was intentional, willful, and/or taken with disregard for the rights of others.

COUNT THREE

Violation of the Fair Housing Act

26. The allegations set forth in paragraphs 1 through 25 are hereby realleged and incorporated by reference.

27. By engaging in the conduct described above, defendant has:

  1. Discriminated in the rental of, or otherwise made unavailable or denied, dwellings to renters because of handicap, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1), 24 C.F.R. § 100.60(a); and

  2. Failed to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford persons an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B); 24 C.F.R. § 100.204.

28. Defendant's conduct described above constitutes:

  1. A pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619; and

  2. A denial to a group of persons of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619, which denial raises an issue of general public importance.

29. Defendant's discriminatory conduct as described above has caused injury to other persons, including persons with disabilities and persons associated with them, particularly persons with mobility impairments.

30. The defendant's conduct described above was intentional, willful, and/or taken in disregard for the rights of others.

Prayer for Relief

WHEREFORE, the United States prays that this Court enter an ORDER that:

a. Declares that defendant's discriminatory housing practices violate Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, et seq.; Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131 - 12134; and the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.

b. Enjoins defendant, its agents, employees, and successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with defendant from discriminating because of disability in any aspect of its public and/or Section 8 housing program in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 794, et seq. and accompanying regulations, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134 and accompanying regulations, or the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.

c. Requires the defendant (1) to make an adequate number of housing units accessible to persons with disabilities, as required by Section 504 and HUD's Section 504 regulations, 24 C.F.R. pt. 8 and pt. 40; (2) to create an adequate number of units that are accessible to persons with mobility impairments, vision impairments, and hearing impairments to meet the needs of persons with mobility impairments, vision impairments, and hearing impairments in the population that would be eligible for public housing services provided by defendant; (3) to ensure that accessible public housing units are distributed throughout public housing developments in a sufficient range of sizes and amenities comparable to those available to housing applicants and tenants without disabilities; (4) to permit and encourage nonelderly persons with disabilities to live in HABC mixed population housing developments that have not been authorized by HUD to be designated as elderly-only housing; (5) to implement effectively a reasonable accommodation policy and grant requests for reasonable accommodations; (6) to assist persons with disabilities who receive Section 8 vouchers to locate accessible Section 8 units available for rent, including providing such persons with a current listing of accessible Section 8 units available for rent; and (7) to encourage property owners who participate in the Section 8 voucher program to make units available and accessible to persons with disabilities by, among other things, allowing for the use of increased ("exception") rents for such units.

d. Awards such monetary damages as will fully compensate individuals with disabilities who live in HABC public or Section 8 housing, who are or have been on the waiting list for HABC public or Section 8 housing, or who have been wrongfully denied public or Section 8 housing and who have suffered injury caused by defendant's discriminatory actions.

e. Assesses a civil penalty against the defendant in an amount authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C), in order to vindicate the public interest.

The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.



Attorney General

Thomas M. DiBiagio
United States Attorney
for the District of Maryland
______________________
R. Alexander Acosta
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division

______________________
Steven H. Rosenbaum
Chief
Housing and Civil Enforcement
Section

_______________________
Jeanine M. Worden
Nicole Porter
Deputy Chiefs
Catherine Bendor
Trial Attorney
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
tel: (202) 514-4305
fax: (202) 514-1116


CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE



I hereby certify that on this 29th day of September, 2004 a copy of the foregoing Complaint was sent via first class mail, postage prepaid, to the following counsel of record:



Jannai C. Goslee
Interim General Counsel
Office of Legal Affairs
Housing Authority of
Baltimore City
36 S. Charles Street
Suite 1515
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

Lauren Young
Staff Attorney
Maryland Disability Law Center
1800 North Charles Street
4th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21201



__________________________
Catherine Bendor



Document Filed: September 29, 2004
General Information Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
 
Leadership
Steven H. Rosenbaum
Chief
Contact
Housing & Civil
Enforcement Section
(202) 514-4713
TTY - 202-305-1882
FAX - (202) 514-1116
To Report an Incident of Housing Discrimination:
1-800-896-7743
Mailing Contact
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, NWB
Washington, D.C. 20530

Email: fairhousing@usdoj.gov

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