Los Angeles Endorses Landmark Accessible Housing Settlement

Press Release

Los Angeles Endorses Landmark Accessible Housing Settlement

(Los Angeles, CA – September 1, 2016) The Los Angeles City Council agreed to settle litigation brought by three nonprofit disability and fair housing advocacy groups that claimed the city’s housing programs were inaccessible to people with disabilities. The agreement, which is the largest of its kind in the country, provides that, over the next 10 years, the city will ensure that at least 4,000 of its affordable housing units meet the highly accessible standards required by federal law, and will enforce policies to ensure that those units are inhabited by people who need the specific accessibility features provided. The city will spend at least $200 million during the life of the agreement.

Three plaintiff organizations—Independent Living Center of Southern California (ILCSC), Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley (FHCSFV), and Communities Actively Living Independent and Free (CALIF) brought suit against the city and the now-dissolved Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) in federal court in January 2012 to improve accessibility of affordable housing for people who need accessibility features in their housing units, including people who use wheelchairs or have other mobility disabilities, people who are deaf or have hearing disabilities, and people who are blind or have vision disabilities. “When our clients can’t find affordable, accessible housing, they end up homeless, or in nursing homes, or living in inaccessible apartments that isolate them from the community,” said ILCSC Executive Director Norma Jean Vescovo. “Settlement of this case means we can bring people with disabilities out of the shadows and back into the community.”

The federal court complaint alleges that the city and CRA violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and state law, which require that affordable housing programs—particularly those built with federal and state financial assistance—meet specific accessibility requirements. “Through our work with clients and in the community, we began to encounter units in 2007 that were absolutely unusable by people with serious disabilities, but the city and CRA took no action,” said Sharon Kinlaw, Executive Director of FHCSFV. “While we wish we never had to pursue litigation, we are pleased that this settlement will begin to address the needs of people with disabilities throughout Los Angeles.”

“The unavailability of affordable, accessible housing is a critical issue for people with disabilities,” said Autumn Elliott, Associate Managing Attorney with Disability Rights California. “We look forward to working with the City of Los Angeles to reduce these barriers and promote full integration of people with disabilities in our community.”

Over the ten years of the agreement, the three plaintiff organizations will assist people with disabilities to transition into the newly-accessible units. “Because we know personally about the struggles of our clients with disabilities, we are uniquely suited to support them as they move into fully accessible new units,” said CALIF Executive Director Lillibeth Navarro. “The settlement provides ongoing funding for us to be involved in the critical work of translating a legal victory into real housing opportunities for our consumers.”

Plaintiffs were represented by Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Legal Center, and David Geffen Law Office. Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Michael Allen, a partner at the Relman firm and lead counsel in the litigation, said: “We are pleased that the city has acknowledged the severe shortage of accessible units in its affordable housing program, and that it has taken such comprehensive steps to address the needs of people with disabilities going forward. This is the largest accessibility settlement ever reached involving affordable housing, and it will send a strong, positive message to cities all over the country that their housing programs must be accessible.”

The case, brought in the United States District Court, is Independent Living Center of Southern California (ILCSC), et al v. City of Los Angeles, et al., U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Case No. 2:12-cv-000551-FMO-PJW. Litigation against the CRA will continue.

For more information visit our case page Independent Living Center of Southern California, et al v. the City of Los Angeles, et al.