Another Victory for Fair and Welcoming Communities:
Civil Rights Groups Sue Developers of Affordable Senior Apartments for Discrimination Against People with Disabilities
On June 5, 2014, Open Communities, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), and HOPE Fair Housing Center (HOPE) announced a lawsuit against Ryan Companies US, Inc, James N. Bergman, Thomas and Thomas Associates, and several of their affiliates, alleging discrimination against people with disabilities. Ryan Companies and its affiliates built affordable senior apartments using Low Income Housing Tax Credits awarded through the Illinois Housing Development Authority or the Iowa Finance Authority and other public funding sources.
NFHA, HOPE, and Open Communities investigated nine properties designed and/or built by the defendants in Illinois and Iowa. Every one of those nine properties failed to comply with the design and construction requirements under the federal Fair Housing Act. Three additional apartment complexes designed and/or built by the defendants have been identified in the lawsuit as likely to have accessibility violations.
“Since 1991, the Fair Housing Act has required that multi-family apartments be designed and built to be accessible to people with disabilities, yet the defendants’ apartments do not provide full access to tenants or their guests who use wheelchairs. Access to the bathroom and kitchen is a basic necessity to enjoy your living space,” said Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “We are pleased that Ryan Companies and James Bergman have responded to the lawsuit positively by indicating a prompt intent to pursue settlement, including fixing accessibility violations. NFHA is looking forward to working with Ryan Companies, James Bergman and any other defendants that are willing to work expeditiously to fix their violations of the law.”
The lawsuit alleges that since about 2005, the defendants have engaged in a pattern and/or practice of building apartments for seniors which do not have the accessible features required by the Fair Housing Act. The defendants’ apartments had many problems including:
- insufficient space to access sinks in kitchens and bathrooms;
- shower stalls that are too small to allow access;
- steep slopes on sidewalks and other routes of entrance;
- access aisles for accessible parking spaces which are blocked by concrete pillars.