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August 27, 09

NEWS / Justice Department Files Lawsuit Alleging Disability-Based Housing Discrimination Against Idaho Cond

WASHINGTON Ė The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the developer of the Riverwalk Condominiums, a condominium apartment complex in Post Falls, Idaho, for violating the Fair Housing Act by constructing apartments that do not have required accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Idaho, charges that Riverwalk Condominiums LLC, the developer of the 36-unit condominium complex on Greensferry Road, failed to comply with the Fair Housing Act accessibility provisions which apply to 18 ground-floor units. Among other things, the complaint alleges that the public and common use areas are not accessible to people with disabilities; the routes to some units are not accessible; some kitchens and bathrooms are not fully usable by people in wheelchairs; and electrical outlets and environmental controls are mounted too high or too low for access by people in wheelchairs. The lawsuit also alleges that the defendantsí conduct constitutes a pattern or practice of discrimination or a denial of rights to a group of persons.

"Architectural barriers can be as big an obstacle to the housing rights of people with disabilities as an outright refusal to rent to them," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Access to housing is a civil right, and the Justice Department is committed to correcting such violations of the Fair Housing Act."

The lawsuit arose from complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by an apartment seeker and by the Intermountain Fair Housing Council, a private, non-profit fair housing organization based in Boise, Idaho. After investigating the complaints, HUD issued a charge of discrimination. After the complainants named in HUDís charge elected to have the case heard in federal court, HUD referred the case to the Justice Department.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for those harmed by the defendantsí actions, civil penalties and a court order requiring correction of the violations. This complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proven in federal court. In order to ensure that the corrections can be made, the complaint names the complexís condominium association as a necessary party for relief under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. There is no allegation that the condominium association violated the law.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status.




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