Justice Department Resolves Discrimination Lawsuit Involving Several Tennessee Tax Credit Housing Projects

February 26, 2010
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The Justice Department has settled a lawsuit alleging that the owners and developers involved in the design and construction of 21 multifamily housing complexes in Tennessee discriminated on the basis of disability. The complexes, which were built with the assistance of federal low-income housing tax credits, contain more than 800 units covered by the Fair Housing Act’s (FHA’s) accessibility provisions along with areas of public accommodation covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The case began when the Tennessee Fair Housing Council, a private, nonprofit advocacy organization whose mission is to eliminate housing discrimination throughout Tennessee, provided the department with information several apartment complexes that were inaccessible to people with disabilities. The department conducted an independent investigation and filed this lawsuit in September 2008.

Under the settlement, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court, Murphy Development LLC and 22 defendants will pay all costs related to making the complexes for which they were responsible accessible to persons with disabilities, pay up to $350,000 to compensate individuals harmed by the inaccessible housing, and pay $75,000 to the U.S. The retrofitting includes modifying walkways to eliminate steps, excess slopes and level changes, and providing accessible curb ramps, and providing accessible parking and routes to site amenities. In addition, the defendants will have to replace inaccessible doorknobs, widen inaccessible narrow doorways, and reconfigure bathrooms and kitchens to accommodate persons who use wheelchairs.

The settlement also requires all the defendants to be trained about the requirements of the FHA and to provide periodic reports to the government that they are following the law.