Affordable housing owners sued over broken elevator

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The owners of an Indianapolis affordable seniors housing apartment building are being sued in federal court by two organizations and four residents who allege that the owners violated the Fair Housing Act by not repairing the building's elevator in a timely manner.

The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services and four residents with disabilities filed the lawsuit (PDF) against United Church Residences of Indianapolis, Indiana Inc. and United Church Homes, Inc., the owners of the Capitol Station apartments, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. One employee also is included in the lawsuit. The complaint maintains that Capitol Station was without a working elevator for approximately 5.5 weeks in August and September, causing “physical harm, humiliation and emotional stress” for four women who had mobility issues that made taking the stairs dangerous or impossible.

“We understand that elevators can break, but what we are unable to understand is why there were no other alternative options put in place so residents could safely leave their homes,” Dawn Adams, executive director of IPAS, said in a statement. “Some residents with disabilities were left stranded in their apartments for over five weeks. The residents of Capitol Station repeatedly requested assistance from management and corporate but were provided none.”

George Schaefer, vice president of marketing and communication for United Church Homes, told McKnight's Senior Living that the company would not comment on the pending litigation, but added: “We are committed to providing safe, secure and affordable housing for the residents of Capitol Station, and our foremost concerns are on the well-being and safety of our residents.”

United Church Homes is a 100-year-old, faith-based, nonprofit provider of affordable housing and healthcare services for more than 4,000 residents in 13 states, Schaefer said. Capitol Station has 48 apartments on three floors that are serviced by one elevator and a staircase with 62 steps, according to FHCCI. Residency is restricted to those aged at least 62 years. Tenants pay 30% of their adjusted monthly income for rent, with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development paying Capitol Station the balance of the rental portion for each resident.

“These retired residents had to beg for help from family members and strangers for the most basic of necessities, unable to enjoy fresh air or visit friends and family,” Amy Nelson, executive director of the FHCCI, said in a statement. “It is unconscionable that accommodations were not made and assistance timely provided.”

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