Fair housing organizations file suit alleging violations of Fair Housing Act at multiple Preferred Living developments
August 20, 2015 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and the Central Fair Housing Association (COFHA) have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the architects, developers, builders, managers, and owners of five multifamily apartment complexes in metropolitan Columbus violated and continue to violate the accessibility requirements of the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA). The suit, which was filed yesterday, alleges that Preferred Living Real Estate Investments, LLC and several affiliated companies have engaged in a continuous pattern or practice of discrimination against people with disabilities in violation of the FHAA.
The defendants in the case, all of which are Ohio corporations, include Preferred Living Real Estate Investments, LLC; Preferred Living Real Estate Investments II, LLC; Preferred Living Real Estate Investments, Inc.; David L. Betz Architect, Inc.; Johnathan Barnes Architecture and Design, Ltd.; Andover Park, LLC; Taylor House LLC; Alexander Square LLC, Palmer Square, LLC; Clifton Park, LLC; and Andover Park II, LLC.
Preferred Living has been developing and managing rental communities in Columbus, Ohio and the surrounding area since 1996. The company currently lists 12 different apartment communities where apartments are available, and additional three communities that are listed as “coming soon” on the Preferred Living website.
In July 2014, MVFHC and COFHA became aware that the multifamily housing complexes designed and/or constructed by Preferred Living did not include the elements of accessible and adaptable design required by the FHAA. The fair housing organizations subsequently initiated an investigation of the properties including site inspections, preliminary measurements, and evaluations by two independent experts.
The investigation identified multiple FHAA design and construction violations at each property. Some of the violations revealed by the investigation include ground floor units that are without an accessible route to common-use amenities and clubhouses/leasing offices that have several steps up to the elevated building entrance landing. Other violations identified in the lawsuit include closet doors within units that are insufficiently wide to allow use by people in wheelchairs, and light switches, electrical outlets and/or environmental controls that are beyond the reach ranges specified by the FHAA.
The lawsuit alleges that Preferred Living and other defendants discriminated in the rental of, or otherwise made unavailable or denied, dwellings to persons because of their disabilities; discriminated against persons because of their disabilities in the terms, conditions or privileges of rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with the rental of a dwelling, and failed to design and construct dwellings in compliance with the requirements mandated by the FHAA and applicable regulations.
The complaint further alleges that both MVFHC and COFHA have been directly and substantially injured by the violations through a diversion of resources for the organizations and frustration of the organizations’ missions.
The suit asks the court to declare that Preferred Living and other defendants have violated the federal Fair Housing Act and seeks a permanent injunction enjoining the defendants from failing or refusing to:
bring the covered dwelling units and public and common use areas into compliance with the FHAA;
design or construct any covered multifamily dwellings in the future in compliance with the FHAA;
and make appropriate retrofits to all covered properties in order to bring them into compliance.
The lawsuit also seeks compensatory and punitive damages for both Miami Valley Fair Housing Center and Central Ohio Fair Housing Association, plus all attorney fees, costs, and expenses.
Stephen M. Dane, Ryan C. Downer, and Tara Ramchandani of Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC, a Washington, DC-based civil rights law firm are representing the plaintiffs.
Fair Housing and Disability Awareness for Property Managers and REALTORS September 15, 2015
This updated course is a survey of the major components of Disability Rights under the fair housing law and what changes have been made in the last decade to ensure that people with disabilities can use and enjoy a rental or a home purchase like non-disabled consumers.
Miami Valley Fair Housing Center applauds new fair housing rule
Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation will empower
local jurisdictions to identify and remove barriers to fair housing
July 8, 2015 — An important new fair housing regulation — aimed at promoting diverse, inclusive communities and overcoming the negative effects of segregation — was issued today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The regulation is designed to guide jurisdictions in complying with their existing obligations to “affirmatively further fair housing,” a key provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. It requires state and local governments and housing authorities to consider how to eliminate fair housing barriers for people of color, families with children and people with disabilities.
For the first time, HUD will provide substantial data on housing, demographics and other local conditions for state and local policymakers to assess in determining, among other things, the degree of segregation, concentrated poverty and barriers to equal housing opportunity in their communities.
“Dayton and the rest of the United States remain highly segregated, although we have made some progress,” said Jim McCarthy, President/CEO of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center. “Maps of major cities illustrate how segregated our communities are. At the same time, where you live has a big impact on how your life unfolds. It determines the schools your children attend, the jobs you have access to, the quality of your surroundings, your access to transportation and grocery stores and other important community resources. In the Dayton area, too many children are growing up in neighborhoods that lack these resources. This not only limits the life prospects of these children but also undermines our region’s prosperity.”
“This new HUD rule will help all jurisdictions in the Miami Valley to be more deliberate and strategic about how they use their housing and community development resources to expand access to opportunity for all residents of our community,” McCarthy added. “We look forward to working with local policymakers, to ensure that all people — regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, family status or disability — can chose where to live and to ensure that all neighborhoods are good places to live.”
Brown calls for investigation of racial discrimination in management of foreclosed homes
Senator urges federal regulators to examine reports of unequal treatment of properties in Dayton and other communities nationwide
Brown joined more than a dozen senators in a letter urging the nation’s top financial, housing, and consumer protection regulators to examine allegations that bank-owned properties in white neighborhoods are better maintained and marketed than those in African-American and Latino neighborhoods. In the letter, the senators ask the regulators to take appropriate actions to stop any unequal treatment and violations of the Fair Housing Act.
“The same communities of color who were victimized by predatory lending may now be facing the double whammy of racial bias when it comes to the upkeep of foreclosed homes,” said Brown. “This is a problem that pushes down property values and erodes the quality of life in these communities. Federal agencies should ensure that the financial institutions managing these foreclosed properties use the same maintenance and marketing standards regardless of the race, color, or ethnicity of the homeowners who live in the neighborhood.”
The senators pointed to a report by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) detailing racial disparities in the upkeep and marketing of more than 2,400 Real Estate Owned (REO) homes—that is, bank-owned foreclosed properties—in 29 major metropolitan areas nationwide. Among other discrepancies, NFHA found that bank-owned properties in minority communities in the Dayton area were 2.9 times more likely to have utilities that were exposed or tampered with than properties in comparable, predominantly-white communities.
HUD Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez speaks against SB 134
SB 134 would force landlords and tenants to more expensive channels to process discrimination complaints
May 6, 2015 — Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, spoke yesterday at the Ohio Statehouse about the problems that proposed Senate Bill 134 would present to fair housing in Ohio.
The assistant secretary, speaking to the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission on Hispanic Legislative Day, warned that the changes proposed in SB 134 “could undermine our efforts to protect the housing rights of all Ohio residents.”
Assistant Secretary Velasquez said, “The senator who sponsored the bill claims that SB 134 and now its companion bill HB 149 would conform Ohio fair housing laws to federal standards.”
“But the fact of the matter,” continued Assistant Secretary Velasquez, “is that limiting certain civil penalties, allowing respondents to recover attorneys’ fees in certain instances, and exempting certain landlords from the housing provisions of the Ohio civil rights law would have the opposite effect of the sponsor’s intentions, forcing landlords and tenants to more expensive and complex channels to process discrimination complaints, both administratively and in court.”
The assistant secretary urged people to look closely at SB 134 and to speak out against it.
You can view the assistant secretary’s remarks on YouTube.
Learn more about how SB 134 would hurt Ohio on the fight134.org website.
In conjunction with the Greater Dayton Apartment Association, MVFHC is offering one-hour fair housing webinars on the third Thursday of every month in 2015. For more information, visit our GDAA webinar page.
Inclusive Community Fund
MVFHC’s Inclusive Community Fund is working to help residents of ZIP codes 45417 and 45426 with down payment assistance, home repair and rehabilitation, accessibility modifications, home improvement loans, and neighborhood quality of life grants. For more information, visit our ICF page.
Reasonable Modifications and Accommodations
Have questions about what your rights or responsibilities are under the federal Fair Housing Act for persons with disabilities? Now available online in the Services/Reference section are joint statements from the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development that explain reasonable modifications and accommodations.
HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton
The Home Ownership Center is a non-profit organization that empowers local residents to achieve and sustain homeownership and financial success. They’ve helped thousands of individuals and families meet their homeownership goals through a variety of services offered at low or no cost.
MVFHC provides legal counsel and advice at no cost for foreclosure cases involving residential mortgages.
If you have received a foreclosure complaint, call MVFHC at 937-223-6035.
A Service Animal Policy is now available available online in the Services/Reference section. The policy explains what service animals are and how they are a reasonable accommodation under the Federal Fair Housing Act and also provides practice guidelines for housing providers and for tenants.
Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST is an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that promotes compliance with the Fair Housing Act design and construction requirements. Visit www.fairhousingfirst.org for instruction programs and useful online resources.
Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. To learn how you can save money in your home, visit www.energystar.gov.
Copies of special reports such as Analyses of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice released by local jurisdictions as well as other reports done by MVFHC on zoning and predatory lending are available on the reports page.
Copyright 2003–2015 Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc.