FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, MAY 2, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SETTLES CHICAGO AREA
FAIR HOUSING LAWSUIT FOR $423,000
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Chicago area developer agreed today to settle a fair housing lawsuit brought by the Justice Department by paying $43,000 in damages and penalties and by spending an estimated $380,000 to retrofit a Naperville, Illinois apartment complex to make it accessible to persons with disabilities. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Chicago in January 2001, alleged that Foxcroft Partnership, Wilfred Barry, D'Abar Builders, Inc. and Foxcroft Management & Construction, Inc. violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to design and construct the Foxcroft Apartments, a 118 unit apartment complex in Naperville, Illinois, so as to be accessible to persons with disabilities.
"When builders fail to make apartments accessible, they are denying housing to people with disabilities," said Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "As this settlement demonstrates, it is far less expensive to make housing accessible in the first place than to go back and fix it later."
At approximately half of the forty-four ground floor units at the complex, there are steps into the units, the doorways are too narrow for persons using wheelchairs to get through them, the bathrooms and kitchens lack adequate maneuvering space for persons using wheelchairs, there are no reinforcements for grab bars in the bathroom, and the thermostats and electrical outlets are not placed at accessible heights.
Under the agreement announced today, which must still be approved by the federal court, Foxcroft Partnership, Wilfred Barry, and Foxcroft Management & Construction, Inc. will correct these and other accessibility barriers to make the complex accessible to persons with disabilities. Some of the barriers will be removed immediately, while changes to the individual units will be made at the request of current tenants or when the current tenants move out.
"Congress intended new multi-family housing to be usable by people with disabilities, and we will continue to vigorously enforce this law," said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
Under the Fair Housing Act, new apartment complexes and condominiums with four or more units, must include accessible common amenities such as parking, walkways, pools, and clubhouses. The Act also requires that the ground-floor units in such new multifamily housing include accessible routes into and through the dwelling, doors that are wide enough to accommodate persons who use wheelchairs, bathroom walls that have reinforcements for the installation of grab bars, bathrooms and kitchens that are large enough for people who use wheelchairs to maneuver within them, and environmental controls and electrical outlets at accessible heights.
In addition to requiring the defendants to make the complex accessible, the agreement also requires the defendants to:
* Pay $40,000 in damages to persons who were harmed by the
lack of accessible features at the complex;
* Pay $3,000 as a civil penalty;
* Obtain fair housing training for themselves and their
* Ensure that any future multifamily housing they build is
accessible to persons with disabilities.
The Department of Justice learned of this matter when testers it sent to Foxcroft Apartments were told that at least half of the complex was not accessible to persons using wheelchairs. Testers are persons who pose as prospective purchasers or renters in order to gain information about the practices of a housing provider. Under a program established in 1991, the Department of Justice frequently uses testers to uncover unlawful housing discrimination.
Persons who believe that their apartment complex or condominium development was not designed or constructed in accordance with the Fair Housing Act, or who believe that they have been otherwise discriminated against on the basis of disability, may contact the Department of Justice at 1-800-896-7743 or 202-514-4713, or the Department of Housing of Urban Development (HUD) at 1-800-669-9777 or at www.hud.gov/fhe. Additional information about the accessibility requirements of the Act is available on HUD's website at www.hud.gov/fhe/fheacss.html.