HUD and owner, architect and builder of Missouri condominium settle claim alleging complex design discriminated against persons with disabilities

From the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), March 19, 2014

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that the architect of Valle Creek Condominiums in Pevely, Missouri will pay $35,000 under an Initial Decision and Consent Order resolving allegations that he and others failed to design and construct dwelling units and common areas at the complex so as to make them accessible to persons with disabilities.

The Fair Housing Act requires that multifamily dwellings constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, contain accessible features for persons with disabilities. The requirements include accessible common areas, bathrooms, kitchens, and doors and environmental controls that can be reached by persons who use wheelchairs. Failing to include these features violates the Fair Housing Act.

The Initial Decision and Consent Order is the result of a Charge of Discrimination that HUD filed against H & H Development Group, Inc.; Larry D. Nelson; Builder's Bloc; Fribis Engineering, Inc.; and Pine Creek Engineering, Inc., alleging that they failed to design and construct a 36-unit building in accordance with the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements. 

Specifically, HUD’s charge alleged that numerous aspects of the building violated the Fair Housing Act, including narrow kitchens that make it difficult for persons using wheelchairs to navigate, thermostats that are too high to be reached by persons using wheelchairs, knob-style hardware on the front doors, mailboxes that cannot be accessed by persons using wheelchairs, and a lack of designated parking and accessible routes to units.

“A wheelchair user cannot fully use and enjoy her home if it has obstacles that the Fair Housing Act intended to eliminate almost 25 years ago,” stated Bryan Greene, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.  “HUD will continue working to ensure that those who design and construct multifamily housing satisfy their legal responsibility to build housing that’s accessible to people living with disabilities.”

The case came to HUD's attention after the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council (EHOC), a non-profit fair housing advocacy organization that receives HUD funds to combat housing discrimination, filed a complaint claiming that EHOC’s fair housing testers had found numerous violations of the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements at the property.

Under the terms of the Consent Order, Nelson will pay $2,800 in damages to EHOC and $32,200 to establish a Valle Creek Condominiums Retrofit Fund, which will be used to bring the property into compliance with the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act.  In addition, Builder’s Bloc, a contractor for the property, will perform in-kind work that will correct inaccessible features related to the common areas.

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