WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today it is charging the owners and developers of Ashlynn Estates, a 27-unit complex in Ellensburg, Washington, with housing discrimination for designing and constructing housing units that fail to meet the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act. Read HUD’s charge.
The Fair Housing Act requires that multifamily housing built after March1991 contain accessible features for people with disabilities. Requirements include accessible common areas, bathrooms and kitchens, as well as wider doors and environmental controls that can be reached by residents who use wheelchairs. The failure to include these features violates the Fair Housing Act and makes the property difficult or impossible to use by people with disabilities.
“For more than 25 years, owners and developers have known their legal responsibility under the Fair Housing Act to design housing that is accessible to people with disabilities,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Constructing units that are not accessible reduces the availability of this critically needed housing and puts owners and developers at risk for paying for costly retrofitting on top of damages and other penalties.”
HUD’s charge is the result of a complaint that was filed by Northwest Fair Housing Alliance, a non-profit organization located in Spokane. The charge alleges that the owners and developer of the complex, Riexinger Enterprises, doing business as Crossroads Construction, failed to design and construct the property in an accessible manner.
Specifically, HUD alleges that the buildings’ bathroom and closet doors that are not wide enough for wheelchair access; there is insufficient floor space at bathroom fixtures; and there are no accessible entrances, parking spaces or accessible curbs or ramps.
The charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he or she may award damages to the complainant for its loss as a result of the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose civil penalties in order to vindicate the public interest. If the case is heard in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to the complainant.
In FY 2015, disability was the most common basis of complaints filed with HUD and its partner agencies, being cited as a basis for 4,548 complaints, or nearly 55 percent of the overall total.
People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple and Android devices.
HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.
More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet
at www.hud.gov and http://espanol.hud.gov.