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Salem Engineering Firm Settles Lawsuit Alleging Fair Housing Act Violations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 20, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Justice Department announced today that the engineering firm, Multi/Tech Engineering Services, Inc., (Multi/Tech) located in Salem, Oregon, has agreed to pay $60,902.70 to settle a lawsuit pending in the U.S. District Court of Oregon, which alleges that Multi/Tech violated the Fair Housing Act by designing an apartment complex with steps and other features that made it inaccessible to persons with disabilities.  This settlement will both assist in compensating victims of discrimination and in removing accessibility barriers at Gateway Village, a 275-unit complex in Salem.  In May 2013, the Justice Department and the Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO) had previously settled with the developers of the property under similar injunctive terms and monetary relief.  This settlement resolves the remaining substantive claims of the lawsuit.

Under the terms of the parties’ agreement, Multi/Tech will pay $7,902.20 in damages to the FHCO, which had intervened in the lawsuit as an aggrieved person under the Fair Housing Act.  Multi/Tech will also pay an additional $32,000 to a settlement fund for the purpose of compensating individuals with disabilities who were impacted by the alleged accessibility violations.  Furthermore, Multi/Tech will pay $21,000 to a fund established to take extensive actions to make the complex accessible to persons with disabilities.  These corrective actions, which will be taken by the developer, 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 persons with disabilities to access the sidewalks from the parking areas.

“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 Attorney 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.”

“The right to accessible housing is a fundamental protection afforded by law,” stated U.S. Attorney 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 persons with disabilities in compliance with the Fair Housing Act.”

The lawsuit, filed in September 2011, arose as a result of a complaint filed by the Fair Housing Council of Oregon 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.

“This settlement highlights the importance of the designer in guaranteeing equal opportunity access to housing for people with physical limitations. We encourage building design professionals around the country to understand their responsibility under the Fair Housing Act’s 1988 design and construction requirements and go well beyond these minimum standards to make all housing fully accessible, ” said Pegge McGuire, Executive Director, Fair Housing Council of Oregon.

“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. Persons who believe they were subjected to unlawful discrimination at Gateway Village either when they lived there or considered living there should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743 mailbox # 9993, or e-mail the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at 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 fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.

For more information, please see the attached consent order Here

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