$272,500 Settles Disability Case

Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan

PO Box 7825 Ann Arbor, MI  48107 (877) 979-FAIR  www.fhcmichigan.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

For more information contact:
Pamela A. Kisch (877) 979-3247, J. Mark Finnegan (734) 302-3233

$272,500 Settles Disability Case

Michael Lowrey and his mother, Marilyn Lowrey, accepted $227,500 to settle their fair housing/ new construction case. The Fair Housing Center settled for $45,000. Lowrey & FHC v Uptown is the largest ever FHC-Southeast assisted settlement. According to the settlement, Uptown in Canton Apartments will finally make the property more accessible for people with disabilities. This includes retro-fitting all ninety-seven first floor units; providing accessible routes through the entire property; and adding accessible parking. Costs for the changes are estimated at over $1,000,000.

Mr. Lowrey contacted the Fair Housing Center in early 2006 because his “barrier free” apartment had some accessibility problems. During our investigation FHC discovered that only four first floor units in the new complex were made accessible. According to the Fair Housing Act, all multi-family housing built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, must adhere to seven design requirements regarding wheelchair accessibility for ground floor units, and an accessible route.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) “an accessible route means a continuous unobstructed path connecting accessible elements and spaces in a building or within a site that can be negotiated by a person with a severe disability using a wheelchair, and that is also safe for and usable by people with other disabilities. Interior accessible routes may include corridors, floors, ramps, elevators and lifts. Exterior accessible routes may include parking access aisles, curb ramps, walks, ramps and lifts.”

FHC found problems with the sidewalks, lack of access to the mailboxes and other common areas of the property. In the summer of 2006, Mr. Lowrey attempted to sit by the pool while his guests swam. Instead, he was forced to sit outside the pool area fence because the only ramp led to a locked Club House.

HUD guidelines state that:

All covered multifamily dwellings for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 with a building entrance on an accessible route shall be designed and constructed in such a manner that—

(1) The public and common use areas are readily accessible to and usable by handicapped persons;

(2) All the doors designed to allow passage into and within all premises are sufficiently wide to allow passage by handicapped persons in wheelchairs; and

(3) All premises within covered multifamily dwelling units contain the following features of adaptable design: (i) An accessible route into and through the covered dwelling unit; (ii) Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other environmental controls in accessible locations; (iii) Reinforcements in bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars around the toilet, tub, shower, stall and shower seat, where such facilities are provided; and (iv) Usable kitchens and bathrooms such that an individual in a wheelchair can maneuver about the space.

FHC Cooperating Attorney J. Mark Finnegan filed the case in Federal Court on behalf of Mr. Lowrey in July 2006. A year later, the FHC Board of directors voted to intervene in the case. Cooperating Attorney Steve Dane of Relman & Dane represented the FHC. Both cases were assigned to Judge Nancy Edmonds.

The Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan provides testing, investigation, advocacy, advice, education and attorney referral to those who believe they are the victims of illegal housing discrimination. Since 1992 the FHC has aided in the filing of over 70 lawsuits.

Total FHC aided settlements are over $1,450,000.

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