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CUOMO ANNOUNCES LAS VEGAS BUILDER TO PAY $37,500 TO SETTLE DISABILITY HOUSING DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT
ASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today announced that a Las Vegas developer has agreed to pay $37,500 to settle a housing discrimination complaint involving a 168-unit Las Vegas condominium complex that is not accessible to people with disabilities.
The agreement will enable 56 first-floor condominiums at the Pueblo at Santa Fe condo complex in Las Vegas to be remodeled so they are accessible to people with disabilities. The agreement settles a complaint filed with HUD by the Disabled Rights Action Committee - an advocacy organization in Las Vegas - against Frey Development Corp.
"For far too long, the housing accessibility needs of people with disabilities have been ignored, causing these Americans enormous hardship," Cuomo said. "The Fair Housing Act protects people with disabilities against this type of terrible discrimination. Our message to builders and landlords across the nation is simple: obeying this law isn't optional - it's mandatory. We are enforcing this law and enforcing it vigorously."
The Fair Housing Act, enacted in 1968, was broadened in 1989 to outlaw housing discrimination against people with disabilities. It also bars housing discrimination on account of race, color, religion, sex, family status and national origin.
The Act requires that all apartment buildings and condominiums built since March 13, 1991 have units that are accessible to people in wheelchairs on the first floor and - if there are elevators - on upper floors as well.
Disabled Rights Action Committee President Ronald Ray Smith called the agreement announced today "fair" and said his group appreciates the work by HUD to help reach the settlement. He said: "This agreement helps insure that Nevada, and the Las Vegas metro area in particular, will do what Congress intended: provide modestly accessible housing for people with disabilities of all income levels, from retirees who buy a timeshare on 'The Strip,' to young families just starting out in their first apartment."
The settlement announced today calls for Frey Development to put $20,000 into an escrow fund, available to current or future owners of 56 first-floor units at the Pueblo at Santa Fe condominiums. The funds will be used to retrofit the condos to make them accessible to people with disabilities. In addition, Frey Development has agreed to donate $15,000 to the Disability Rights Action Committee and to pay the organization's $2,500 in legal fees.
The escrow fund will be used to: widen doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, place electrical outlets where they can be reached by someone in a wheelchair, reinforce bathroom walls to allow the later installation of grab bars, and create enough space in kitchens and bathrooms for a person in a wheelchair to maneuver. The escrow fund can also be used to remodel entrances that currently have three-inch stoops, and to change round doorknobs to lever-type handles. The escrow fund will be available to current and future owners of the ground-floor condos for the next six years, and will be administered by the condominiums' homeowners association.
Frey Development has also agreed to make changes in the common areas of the complex, including: designating parking spaces for people with disabilities, providing a clear route from the street to the community center for people in wheelchairs, and making the community center's water fountain usable for people with disabilities.
A HUD-commissioned study found that if builders comply with the Fair Housing Act during construction, their costs rise by only about one-third of one percent. However, remodeling a building that has already been constructed can cost a great deal more.
HUD began a stepped-up campaign against housing discrimination in September at President Clinton's direction, as part of the President's One America Initiative.
This past fiscal year, as a result of HUD's crackdown, HUD obtained $9.6 million in relief for individuals in housing discrimination settlements - compared with $4.4 million the year before.
President Clinton's proposed 1999 federal budget seeks $22 million in increased funding for HUD to intensify the fight against housing discrimination. The 73 percent increase for HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity would boost spending by the office to $52 million. If approved by Congress, it would be the largest single budget increase in civil rights law enforcement in two decades.
The Fair Housing Act covers the sale, rental, financing and advertising of almost all housing in the nation.
People who believe they have been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a complaint with HUD directly over the Internet.
Content Archived: January 20, 2009