Nevada condo developer pays $37,500 to resolve HUD disability and accessibility complaint

A Las Vegas developer agreed to pay $37,500 to settle a housing discrimination complaintinvolving a 168-unit Las Vegas condominium complex that is not accessible to people withdisabilities. The May settlement agreement resolves a complaint filed with the USDepartment of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by the Disability Rights ActionCommittee, a Las Vegas advocacy group.

The agreement enables 56first-floor condominiums at the Pueblo at Santa Fe condominium complex in Las Vegas to beremodeled so they are accessible to people with physical disabilities and mobilityimpairments. Frey Development Corporation is the developer named in the complaint who willpay to modify the condo units.

Settlement will make 56 units accessible for persons with physicaldisabilities

The settlement calls for Frey Development to put $20,000 into an escrow fund, availableto current or future owners of 56 first-floor units at the Pueblo at Santa Fecondominiums. The funds will be used to retrofit the condos to make them accessible topeople with disabilities. In addition, Frey Development has agreed to donate $15,000 tothe Disability Rights Action Committee and to pay the organization's $2,500 in legal fees.

The escrow fund will be used to make certain types of modifications: widening doorwaysto fit wheelchairs, placing electrical outlets where someone in a wheelchair can reachthem, reinforcing bathroom walls to allow the later installation of grab bars, andcreating 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-inchstoops and to change round doorknobs to lever-type handles. The escrow fund will beavailable to current and future owners of the ground-floor condos for the next six years,and will be administered and disbursed by the condominiums' homeowners association.

Frey Development has agreed to make changes in the common areas of the complex,including designating parking spaces for people with disabilities, providing a clear routefrom the street to the community center for people in wheelchairs, and making thecommunity center's water fountain usable for people with disabilities.

Disabled Rights Action Committee President Ronald Ray Smith called the agreement"fair" and said his group appreciated the work by HUD to help reach thesettlement. He said, "This agreement helps insure that Nevada, and the Las Vegasmetro area in particular, will do what Congress intended: provide modestly accessiblehousing for people with disabilities of all income levels, from retirees who buy atimeshare on `The Strip,' to young families just starting out in their firstapartment."

Smith said that the Disability Rights Action Committee has severalaccessibility complaints pending with HUD against several Nevada developers. The Committeealso files complaints concerning accessibility in public accommodations, in addition tofiling fair housing complaints.

HUD claims that costs of making buildings accessible are low, butretrofitting is expensive

A HUD-commissioned study found that if builders comply with the Fair Housing Act duringconstruction, their costs rise by only about one-third of one percent. However, remodelinga building that they have already constructed can cost a great deal more. Retrofittinginaccessible structures requires builders to tear down much of their finished work whichcan be both costly and frustrating.

At a press conference, HUD officials had strong words for landlords and builders."For far too long, the housing accessibility needs of people with disabilities havebeen ignored, causing these Americans enormous hardship," HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomosaid. "The Fair Housing Act protects people with disabilities against this type ofterrible discrimination. Our message to builders and landlords across the nation issimple: obeying this law isn't optional. It's mandatory. We are enforcing this law andenforcing it vigorously."