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GOV TDD (202) 514-1888 JUSTICE DEPARTMENT RESOLVES CASE ARISING FROM ITS PROBE OF INACCESSIBLE HOUSING IN THE CHICAGO AREA WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A Northern Illinois development company will correct design problems in condominiums that are inaccessible to persons with disabilities, under a settlement reached today with the Justice Department. The agreement, filed together with a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago, resolves allegations that Ranch Development, Inc., of Orland Park, Illinois, violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) by failing to include particular features in condominiums which would make the units accessible to persons with disabilities. Under the FHA, multi-family housing complexes with four or more units must contain, among other things, accessible routes, doorways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, reachable thermostats, and bathroom walls equipped with reinforcements so that people with disabilities could install grab bars. "Today's agreement will guarantee that individuals with disabilities have more opportunities for accessible housing," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "I commend Ranch Development for correcting some features prior to this agreement and taking additional steps to ensure that more accessible housing exists for individuals with disabilities." The settlement requires Ranch Development to correct design problems in the Saratoga Lakes Condominiums, a three-story building served by an elevator, in Orland Park, Illinois and compensate victims who wish to retrofit their residences to remove design defects. The case is part of the Justice Department's continuing efforts to ensure accessible housing to people with disabilities and stems from an investigation under the accessibility provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) conducted in the Chicago metropolitan area.

In the settlement reached today, Ranch Development agreed to correct most of the violations. Among the steps that Ranch Development has agreed to take are redesigning units not yet constructed in the second three-story building of the development to fully comply with the Fair Housing Act. In completed residential units, the agreement establishes a $20,000 fund to pay for retrofits requested by owners who wish, among other things, to widen doorways, install reinforcement in bathroom walls for the later installation of grab bars and modify patio doors to allow for greater access. The Department began looking at buildings in the Chicago area in 1996 as part of its nationwide enforcement program. The audits, which were performed in partnership with the John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Clinic and Access Living, a Chicago-based disability rights organization, consisted of disabled and non-disabled "testers" who posed as prospective home buyers inspecting properties to see if they met accessibility requirements. The audits determined that virtually all of the inspected units failed to meet the accessibility requirements. Of the 49 sites tested, 48 were found to be in violation. The Justice Department determined that 29 of the 48 developments -- constituting approximately 4,500 units -- had significant noncompliance problems. Since it commenced its enforcement initiative in Chicago, the Department has settled seven individual cases involving several hundred residential units. A summary of the corrective action steps Ranch Development will make are attached to this release, along with a summary of the Fair Housing Act's accessibility requirements. # # # 98-396