A developer, builder and manager of affordable senior housing and other apartment complexes has settled one of the largest housing accessibility lawsuits filed by the Department of Justice.
Miller-Valentine Operations has agreed to make extensive modifications at 82 multifamily housing complexes and pay $475,000 to resolve claims that it violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities act by designing and constructing apartment complexes that are inaccessible to people with disabilities.
The lawsuit had been announced in May 2019.
CEO Elizabeth Mangan denied the allegations in the lawsuit and told McKnight’s Senior Living that the complaint focused primarily on multifamily projects completed before 2012.
“We are, and always have been, committed to partnering with reputable architects, engineers and other project partners to develop and build multifamily communities that comply with applicable laws and building codes,” Mangan said. “Miller-Valentine Construction has and always will support fair and accessible housing for all residents of the multifamily communities we build.
“While we deny the allegations contained in the lawsuit, the new ownership of Miller-Valentine Construction chose to settle any potential exposure and to focus on the future. Bringing an end to the litigation enables us to move forward and continue to provide the best in class service our customers deserve.”
The housing complexes at issue — many of which were built with financial assistance from the low-income housing tax credit and other federal programs — are located in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia, and they contain more than 3,000 units that are required to have accessible features.
The full list of properties appears in a Justice Department news release. Among them:
- Twin Lakes Senior Villas, Rantoul, IL
- Meadow Vista Senior Villas, Altoona, IA
- Madison Place Senior, Gastonia, NC
- Carriage Trails Senior Villas, Huber Heights, OH
- Harmony Senior Village, Williamsburg, OH
- Lake Towne Senior, Walbridge, OH
- Pheasant Run Senior, Dayton, OH
- Siena Village Senior Living, Dayton, OH
- St. Rita’s Senior Housing, Garfield Heights, OH
- Walnut Run Senior Villas, Cortland, OH
- Whitehouse Square Senior Villas, Whitehouse, OH
Under the terms of the settlement, announced by the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, Miller-Valentine “must take extensive corrective actions to make the complexes accessible to persons with disabilities,” including replacing excessively sloped portions of sidewalks, installing properly sloped curb ramps and walkways to access units from sidewalks and parking areas, providing sufficient room for wheelchair users in bathrooms and kitchens, and removing accessibility barriers in public and common use areas.
The company will pay $400,000 to establish a settlement fund to compensate individuals with disabilities harmed by the accessibility violations, and will pay $75,000 in civil penalties. The settlement also requires training about the Fair Housing Act and ADA.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said this settlement sends an “unmistakable message” and “there simply is no excuse for these violations of longstanding federal law.”
“For nearly three decades, federal law has mandated that new multifamily housing be accessible to people with disabilities,” Dreiband said. “And yet, after all these years, some in the housing industry continue to ignore their legal obligations by building inaccessible properties that deny individuals with disabilities the opportunity to live in and enjoy housing on equal terms with nondisabled tenants.”
David M. DeVillers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said the settlement achieves two major goals.
“It will correct actions taken in the past that limited access to housing for people with disabilities and at the same time put steps in place to prevent this from happening in the future,” DeVillers said.