WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced a settlement that, pending court approval, will resolve allegations that those involved in the design and construction of the Summerland Heights Apartments, a 318-unit apartment complex in Woodbridge, Va., discriminated on the basis of disability in the design and construction of the project.
The complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in conjunction with a consent decree, alleges that the defendants violated the federal Fair Housing Act. It cites a failure to design and construct the Summerland Heights Apartments so that ground floor units contain features of accessible design and the public use and common use areas are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
"Accessible housing is not only a civil right for individuals with disabilities, it is a basic necessity. Accessibility must be considered in the design and construction of new buildings, and the Justice Department is committed to enforcing the nation’s fair housing laws to protect the rights of all citizens, including those with disabilities," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
Under the settlement, the defendants will pay all costs related to retrofitting the apartment complex to make it accessible to persons with disabilities. The defendants must also establish a $40,000 fund which will be used to compensate individuals harmed by the inaccessible housing. The settlement also requires the defendants to undergo training on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
The required retrofitting includes modifying walkways to eliminate excess slopes and level changes, providing accessible curb ramps, and providing accessible parking and routes to site amenities, such as clubhouses, pools, mailboxes and trash facilities. The settlement also provides for the replacement of inaccessible knob door hardware with levers, and the widening of inaccessible doorways.
The defendants are: Summerland Heights GP LLC, Summerland Heights II GP LLC, Summerland Heights L.P., Summerland Heights II L.P., Charles P. Johnson & Associates Inc. and the Marlyn Development Corp.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line (1-800-896-7743), e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.