Saturday, June 04, 2016

Federal Appeals Court To Real Estate Developers: OK To Disregard Fair Housing Act's Design & Accessibility Requirements Where Abandoned, Century-Old Factory Is Near-Gutted, Then Converted Into 163-Unit Residential Rental Building

From a recent Justia US Law Opinion Summary:
  • The apartment building, constructed in 1912, was used first as a factory, before it was abandoned. Goldtex purchased the the building in 2010 and hired KlingStubbins to design a plan to convert the entire building into rental apartment units and retail space.

    The building was almost gutted for conversion into a residential building with 163 apartment units and ground floor retail space that began accepting tenants in 2013.

    A housing advocacy group filed suit alleging violation of the design and accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(3)(C).(1) The district court dismissed, citing HUD’s interpretation of the provision—which exempts converted buildings from the accessibility requirements if they were constructed prior to March 13, 1991.

    The Third Circuit affirmed, finding the agency’s interpretation entitled to deference. The interpretations are reasonable and reflect a legitimate policy choice by the agency in administering an ambiguous statute.(2)

For the court ruling, see Fair Housing Rights Center in Southeastern Pennsylvania. v. Post Goldtex GP LLC, No. 15-1366 (3d Cir. 2016).
(1) Among the noted alleged violations were:
  1. a main entrance door that was too heavy and the lack of an automatic door opener,
  2. entry doors on units that were less than 32 inches,
  3. units with thresholds into the entry hallway exceeding ¾ of an inch,
  4. units with interior doors less than 32 inches,
  5. units with passageways less than 36 inches, and
  6. units with kitchen counters too high for persons in wheelchairs.
(2) I wonder if there were any violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act with respect to the ground-floor retail space. Just curious.