Sunday, November 13, 2016

Luxury Rental Apartment Developer Agrees To Shell Out $1.8 Million To Retrofit Recently-Designed & Constructed Housing Complexes In Settlement Of Fair Housing Complaint Alleging Inaccessibility For Persons In Wheelchair (ie. Balconies' Sliding Door Thresholds Too High - More Than 3/4")

In Raleigh, North Carolina, The News & Observer reports:
  • Luxury rental apartment company SkyHouse has signed a $1.8 million agreement with Legal Aid of North Carolina over alleged violations of the federal Fair Housing Act.

    According to the conciliation agreement, announced [] by Legal Aid, SkyHouse will make physical modifications to improve access for people with disabilities in SkyHouse towers in Raleigh, Charlotte and eight other cities. The company, which owns buildings in four states, will also contribute $1.8 million toward improvements in buildings it doesn’t own or operate.

    The $1.8 million will be administered by R.L. Mace Universal Design Institute, a nonprofit in Asheville that specializes in accessibility design.

    Legal Aid filed complaints against SkyHouse with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, alleging that SkyHouse balconies violated the FHA because the sliding door thresholds were too high, barring balcony access to people with disabilities.

    SkyHouse denied that the buildings were inaccessible and in violation of the FHA.

    “With regard to the high-rise SkyHouse buildings, we encountered a conflict between ensuring the buildings meet the applicable requirements for waterproofing and wind loads, and the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements and guidelines for all apartment homes in the building,” SkyHouse said in a statement.

    “In response to that conflict, and before LANC raised this with us, we developed and implemented a program to provide disabled access to the balconies,” the statement said. “We welcomed the input from LANC and HUD, and we are pleased to have been part of the efforts of LANC and HUD to broaden and refine our pre-existing program.”

    The conciliation agreement was signed with SkyHouse Raleigh, SkyHouse Charlotte, Novare Group and other parties representing the architects, developers and owners of the properties.

    The conciliation agreement between Legal Aid and SkyHouse was approved Sept. 13 by HUD. The agreement also requires SkyHouse and related parties to pay Legal Aid $50,000 in legal fees and other costs.

    Legal Aid’s Fair Housing Project, which initiated the legal action against SkyHouse, is funded by a $325,000 HUD grant.

    Eleven of SkyHouse’s 17 buildings have high door thresholds barring access, Legal Aid said.

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