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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Justice Department Resolves Lawsuit Alleging Disability-Based Housing Discrimination at Four Multifamily Housing Complexes in Spokane County, Washington

The Department announced today a settlement of a lawsuit alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in the design and construction of four multifamily housing complexes in the Spokane, Wash., area in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.

Under the settlement, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, the defendants will pay all costs related to making the apartment complexes accessible to persons with disabilities and will pay $120,000 to compensate individuals harmed by the inaccessible housing. The developer will pay a $10,000 civil penalty to vindicate the public interest and most of the defendants will undergo training on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act. The defendants include developer Lanzce G. Douglass and companies owned and controlled by him; Beverly Neraas, as representative of the estate of the late Spokane architect Donald E. Neraas; architect Ralph W. Hoover; Independent Home Designs Inc.; the engineering firm J. R. Bonnett Engineering Inc.; and engineer Gary S. Nelson.

"This settlement agreement makes clear that the federal government takes seriously accessibility requirements for multifamily housing," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

"Accessible multifamily housing substantially improves the quality of life for many persons with disabilities in the Spokane area," said James A. McDevitt, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. "This settlement assures that these multifamily housing complexes will be modified to comply with the Fair Housing Act."

The following four complexes in Spokane will be retrofitted as a result of the settlement:

  • The Rock Creek Apartments, East Sitka Avenue and North Nevada Street
  • The Prairie Hills Apartments, Lincoln Road
  • The Granite Court Apartments, East 4th Avenue
  • The Hilby Station Apartments, South Palouse Highway #4

The retrofitting includes modifying walkways to eliminate excess slopes and level changes, providing accessible curb ramps, and 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, the widening of inaccessible doorways, and the reconfiguration of bathrooms and kitchens to accommodate persons who use wheelchairs.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Among other things, the Act requires that new multifamily housing development be designed and constructed with basic accessibility features, including accessible common and public use areas, accessible routes to and through apartments, doors wide enough for wheelchair users, kitchens and bathrooms with sufficient maneuvering space for wheelchair users, outlets and environmental controls in accessible locations and bathrooms with reinforcements for grab bars.

Persons who believe they may have been harmed by the lack of accessible housing at one of the apartment complexes involved in this matter should contact the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743. Please visit www.usdoj.gov/crt for more information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov,  or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.

09-492
Civil Rights Division
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