FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2002
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SETTLES HOUSING DISCRIMINATION CASE WITH
ILLINOIS DEVELOPER, ARCHITECT, AND MILLIKIN UNIVERSITY FOR $185,000
WASHINGTON, D.C.-The Justice Department announced today that an Illinois developer and architect, and Millikin University, a private university located in Decatur, Illinois, have agreed to settle a Justice Department lawsuit alleging that they violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to make The Woods Apartments, a student housing complex located on University property, accessible to persons with disabilities.
"The Fair Housing Act requires that all new multifamily housing, including student housing, be accessible to persons with disabilities," said Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "This agreement should serve as a reminder to Universities, developers, and architects that if they fail to make new multifamily student housing accessible, they are violating the law."
Under the consent decree, which must still be approved by the court, the developer and architect will pay $120,000 in damages and penalties. They will also spend an estimated $65,000 to make certain facilities at the Woods accessible to persons with disabilities, and will build two new three-story elevator-equipped buildings with a total of twenty four fully accessible apartments at the Woods within the next three years.
The complaint, filed simultaneously today with the consent decree in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois, alleges that the defendants First Site Commercial Properties, Inc., The Woods, LLC, their principal Jeffrey Tinervin, BLDD Architects, Inc., and Millikin University, violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to design and construct the eleven buildings at The Woods Apartments so that they were accessible to persons with disabilities. Among other things, the Justice Department alleges that the buildings at The Woods do not have accessible routes into the dwellings, do not have doors wide enough to accommodate persons who use wheelchairs, do not have bathrooms large enough to be usable by persons who use wheelchairs, and do not have reinforcements in the bathroom walls for the later installation of grab bars.
"HUD is fully committed to breaking down the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from fully participating in the our communities," said Kenneth J. Marcus, General Deputy Assistant Secretary for HUD's office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "This settlement expands housing opportunities for people with disabilities and gives the students at Millikin University the opportunity to both live and learn in an obstacle-free environment."
The Fair Housing Act was amended in 1988 to require that all multifamily housing designed and constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 contain certain features to make them accessible to persons with disabilities. In buildings without elevators, ground floor units must be accessible. In buildings with elevators, all units must be accessible. The defendants admit that The Woods Apartments does not comply with the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
The agreement also requires:
the University to appoint an ombudsman to assist and counsel students concerning accessibility issues, including assisting students with disabilities to locate accessible housing;
BLLD Architects to provide four hundred hours of community service to non-profit organizations that promote accessible housing; and
the defendants to put in place new procedures to ensure that future housing they design and construct complies with the Fair Housing Act.
This case began when the Soyland Access for Independent Living, a disability rights organization in Decatur, Illinois, filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education ("DOE") and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") alleging federal civil rights violations against the developer and Millikin University on the basis of disability. DOE and HUD investigated the matter and later referred it to the Department of Justice for enforcement actions. Millikin University also entered into a separate agreement with the Department of Justice in March of this year to improve accessibility at its non-residential facilities throughout the campus.
Persons who believe that they have been harmed by the lack of accessible features at The Woods Apartments may contact the Soyland Access for Independent Living at (217) 876-8888, or the Department of Justice at 202-514-4713 or (800) 896-7743. Persons who believe that their apartment complex or condominium development was not designed or constructed in accordance with the Fair Housing Act, or who believe that they have been otherwise discriminated against on the basis of disability, may contact the Department of Justice at 1-800-896-7743 or 202-514-4713, or the Department of Housing of Urban Development (HUD) at 1-800-669-9777 or at www.hud.gov/fhe. Additional information about the accessibility requirements of the Act is available on HUD's website at www.hud.gov/fhe/fheacss.html.