WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced that it is charging a Chicago developer and architect with housing discrimination for designing and constructing apartments that fail to meet the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act.HUD’s charge contends that Hector Castillo, Hector Castillo Architects, Inc., and 914 W. Hubbard, Inc. is inaccessible to persons with disabilities in several ways, including having doorways that are too narrow, and kitchens and bathrooms that do not contain adequate maneuvering space.
The Fair Housing Act requires that multifamily housing built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 contain accessible features for persons with disabilities. Requirements include accessible common areas, bathrooms and kitchens, as well as wider doors and environmental controls that can be reached by persons who use wheelchairs. The failure to include these features violates theFair Housing Act and makes the property difficult or impossible to use by persons with disabilities.
HUD files this charge on the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Architects, builders and developers have had legal responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act for over two decades. HUD will enforce the law to create more housing opportunities for people with disabilities,” said John Trasviña, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “The joint goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act–to provide access at home, at work, and in public –are unmet if public areas are accessible but homes are not.”
HUD’s complaint, which was filed by the Assistant Secretary, was based on information provided by Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, a non-profit disability advocacy organization. Access Living was retained by the Illinois Department of Human Rights to test 914 W. Hubbard for accessibility. The tester, who uses a wheelchair, found that he was unable to pass through a number of doors, and had difficulty maneuvering in the kitchens and bathrooms, among other things.
The HUD charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, s/he may award damages to aggrieved persons for their losses and order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination. In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest and award attorney fees. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to aggrieved persons.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate more than 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), 800-927-9275 (TTY).