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A development company run by the family of San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos has agreed to make some 12,300 apartment units accessible for people with disabilities in order to settle what is being called the largest housing accessibility case in U.S. history.
The National Fair Housing Alliance and several other national organizations sued A.G. Spanos Companies in 2007 after undercover advocates visited 35 different developments and documented numerous violations of the Fair Housing Act. Under the Act's accessibility provisions, in effect since 1991, apartment buildings and other large developments must provide access for people with disabilities. The National Fair Housing Alliance produced evidence showing that many of the structures built by A.G. Spanos lacked doorways that would allow wheelchair access and had other impediments, such as light switches that were too high for people in wheelchairs.
In order to reach a settlement, A.G. Spanos agreed to retrofit about 12,300 rental units in 14 different states, bringing the units into compliance with the Fair Housing Act. The company also set aside $4.2 million in a fund that willould allow homeowners to make their homes and apartments accessible, even though their homes were not built by A.G. Spanos. This compensates for nearly 3,200 Spanos-built units that were judged too difficult to retrofit. An additional portion of the $15 million settlement will go towards a public information campaign promoting accessible housing.
Shanna Smith, president of the National Fair Housing Alliance, called the agreement "a landmark, unique, comprehensive settlement" in an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, A.G. Spanos has indicated that it will pursue compensation from the architects and designers who worked on the developments.
To read the article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, click here.