FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |
WEDNESDAY, JULY 13, 2005
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SETTLES DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT AGAINST NEVADA DEVELOPERS,
ARCHITECTS, AND ENGINEERS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement with three firms in Reno, Nevada, resolving a lawsuit that alleged disability related housing discrimination. The suit is the Department’s first enforcement action in Reno concerning the accessibility requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act.
“Cutting corners in the construction of new housing does not pay,” said Bradley J. Schlozman, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act are clear and readily achievable in new construction. The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable those who have a legal obligation to provide accessible housing.”
According to the government’s complaint, ERGS, Inc.; civil engineering firm CFA, Inc.; and an individual architect violated the Fair Housing Act by designing and constructing housing complexes in a manner that left them inaccessible to people with disabilities. The properties are Silver Lake Apartments and Sierra Sage Apartments on the outskirts of Reno. The Reno-based Silver State Fair Housing Council (SSFHC) brought suit first, after filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with which the United States’ lawsuit was consolidated.
The agreement requires accessibility improvements to the apartment units and the complexes’ common areas at an estimated cost of $1.67 million. The agreement also provides $27,500 in damages for the SSFHC and $250,000 to reimburse its attorney’s fees and litigation expenses; establishes a $150,000 fund to compensate individuals injured by the inaccessible housing; and requires the payment of a $30,000 civil penalty.
“Today’s action is an excellent example of what can be achieved when the United States joins forces with a local housing group that shares the same passion for equal housing access. The Silver State Fair Housing Council has been advocating and educating for fair housing rights in northern Nevada since 1989. We are pleased to have partnered with them in this case to create more housing options for persons with disabilities to live where they want,” said Daniel G. Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada.
Persons with disabilities who believe they may be aggrieved by the accessibility violations at Silver Lake or Sierra Sage should call 1-800-896-7743 to determine how they can file a claim for monetary damages.
A copy of the consent decree can be obtained on the Justice Department's website at <http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/caselist.htm>. Information on the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act may be found on the website of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at <http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/disabilities/accessibilityR.cfm>. Since January 21, 2001, the Civil Rights Division has filed 161 lawsuits alleging discrimination in housing, including 73 based on disability discrimination and 34 based specifically on the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction provisions that formed the basis of this lawsuit.