September 30, 2004
Contact: Will Jordan
For Immediate Release
Alton, Illinois - Executive Director Will Jordan of the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council (EHOC) and Executive Director Cathy Contarino of IMPACT Inc. Center for Independent Living announced today that they have filed a suit in United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois against the Granite City Housing Authority and Environs Architects for violations of the Fair Housing Act. Attorney Thomas E. Kennedy III filed the suit on their behalf in East St. Louis this morning.
The suit alleges that the Granite City Housing Authority discriminated against persons with disabilities by failing to design and construct 36 new units of housing to be accessible to persons with disabilities. The new units are part of Anchorage Homes, which is a public housing complex for seniors who are 62 years and older. The suit alleges that the Granite City Housing Authority and Environs Architects of Maryville, Illinois, failed to provide an accessible route into and through the dwelling units; failed to provide thermostats and other controls in accessible locations; failed to construct reinforcements in bathroom walls to allow for the later installation of grab bars; and failed to construct usable kitchens and bathrooms such that an individual using a wheelchair can maneuver about the space. The new housing units were completed in October 2002.
Under the Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988, Congress adopted seven guidelines for accessibility which must be incorporated in the design and construction of multi-family buildings with four or more units built after March 13, 1991.
Plaintiff IMPACT Inc. Center for Independent Living works to increase the supply of accessible housing, advocates on behalf of persons with disabilities, and provides peer counseling and information referral to persons with disabilities. The center often faces difficulties in locating fully accessible housing for its clients.
Commenting on the suit, EHOC's director Will Jordan said: "The housing authority and its architect have seriously failed their residents by refusing to design a complex for seniors that is accessible. A person using a wheelchair cannot get their wheelchair into their own bathroom. Without reinforcements for grab bars, residents could be seriously injured when trying to bathe or use the toilet. Residents can't reach their thermostat to control the temperature. They can't adequately reach their stove to cook. And they can't safely get out of their house to their car, because there isn't a curb ramp or accessible parking. The Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988 were designed to increase the supply of accessible housing. We regret that the Granite City Housing Authority refused to address these violations.. For the benefit of the people who need it most-low-income seniors-we are working to ensure that Anchorage Homes is retrofit to the basic level of accessibility required under federal law."