On November 20, 2009, Judge Saundra Armstrong of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California approved a settlement in National Fair Housing Alliance et al v. A.G. Spanos Construction Co., et al, requiring Defendants to retrofit 12,300 apartment units and adjacent common areas at 82 apartment complexes in 11 states to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities. It is one of the largest Fair Housing Act design and construction settlements since the Act was amended in 1988. Defendants will also contribute nearly $5 million to establish funds around the country to improve accessibility in non-Spanos buildings. The total value of the settlement, including damages and attorneys' fees, is estimated to be nearly $15 million.
The litigation commenced in June 2007, after an extensive investigation by the National Fair Housing Alliance ("NFHA") and four of its members uncovered substantial architectural barriers at dozens of properties built by Spanos, including stairs at apartment entrances, inaccessible common areas, thresholds impassable by wheelchair users, and kitchens and bathrooms lacking accessible appliances and features.
Under the settlement, NFHA, Fair Housing of Marin, Fair Housing Napa Valley, Metro Fair Housing Services of Atlanta, and the Fair Housing Continuum of Melbourne, Florida will administer the accessibility funds to provide grants to disabled veterans, seniors, and other people with disabilities whose homes lack accessible features.
Beyond the relief secured in this litigation, the size and scope of this settlement should send a clear message to the design, development, and building industries that violations of accessibility requirements carry significant financial risks.