The Justice Department announced today that Multi/Tech Engineering Services Inc., an engineering firm based in Salem, Ore., has agreed to pay more than $60,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that it had violated the Fair Housing Act by designing Gateway Village Apartments with steps and other features that made it inaccessible to people with disabilities.
“Steps, narrow doors and other accessibility barriers prevent people with disabilities from exercising the same rights to obtain housing of their choice that other people enjoy” said Acting Assistant General for the Civil Rights Division Jocelyn Samuels. “We will hold builders and designers accountable and those who fail to follow the law will face enforcement action.”
This settlement will assist in compensating victims of discrimination and in removing accessibility barriers at Gateway Village, a 275 unit apartment complex in Salem. In May 2013, the Justice Department and the Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO) also reached a settlement with the developers of the property to resolve the rest of the lawsuit, filed in September 2011. The settlement must still be approved by the court.
Under the terms of the parties’ agreement, Multi/Tech will pay $32,000 to a settlement fund to compensate individuals with disabilities who were impacted by the accessibility violations. Multi/Tech will also contribute $21,000 to the corrective actions already being undertaken by the developer according to the prior settlement agreement to make Gateway Village accessible to people with disabilities. These corrective actions include removing steps from sidewalks, widening interior doorways, reducing threshold heights, replacing excessively sloped portions of sidewalks and installing properly sloped curb ramps to allow people with disabilities to access the sidewalks from the parking areas. In addition, Multi/Tech will pay $7,902.70 in damages to the FHCO, the plaintiff-intervenor, whose investigation revealed the accessibility violations.
“The right to accessible housing is a fundamental protection afforded by law,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Amanda Marshall. “I am committed to working with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, and our federal, state and local partners to ensure that those who design and construct housing units make them accessible to people with disabilities in compliance with the Fair Housing Act.”
The lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed by FHCO with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination and referred the matter to the Justice Department.
“For more than two decades the law has required that newly-built multifamily housing provide equal access to people with disabilities,” said Bryan Greene, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Throughout that time, HUD and the Department of Justice have educated builders, design professionals and others on those requirements, most recently through guidance issued this past April. Where those efforts fail, our agencies will gain compliance through enforcement of the law."
Individuals who are entitled to share in the settlement fund will be identified through a process established in the settlement. Those who believe they were subjected to unlawful discrimination at Gateway Village, either when they lived there or when they considered living there, should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743 mailbox # 9993, or e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. Among other things, the Fair Housing Act requires that newly constructed multifamily housing with four or more units contain certain accessibility features so that the housing is accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.
For more information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces please visit www.usdoj.gov/crt .
Individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at email@example.com , or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.