Housing developer AvalonBay Communities Inc. and partners will pay $2.2 million to settle a two-year-old discrimination case brought by the U.S. Justice Department regarding a bond-financed multifamily project in New York City.
AvalonBay, its partners and affiliates violated the Fair Housing Act at the 361-unit Avalon Chrystie Place by failing to design and construct apartments and common areas that were fully accessible to people in wheelchairs, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York said in settlement documents released Tuesday.
The U.S. attorney’s office filed a civil rights lawsuit in 2008 against AvalonBay, CVP I LLC, Downtown Manhattan Residential LLC, and Chrystie Venture Partners LLC.
AvalonBay is a publicly traded real estate investment trust headquartered in Arlington, Va., that owns or holds interest in developments across the country containing more than 50,000 housing units.
The defendants admitted no wrong, but agreed in a consent decree to retrofit the building to make bathrooms, kitchens, closets, common areas, rest rooms, mailboxes, and elevators more accessible to people with disabilities.
“AvalonBay Communities has always been committed to building and providing apartment homes that are accessible to persons with disabilities,” Fred Harris, a senior vice president at AvalonBay, said in a statement. “The federal government has requested that we take a number of actions to assure the accessibility of our communities. We have agreed to do so.”
The $2.2 million settlement includes a $90,000 civil penalty and creates a fund for claims by victims of discrimination.
The New York State Housing Finance Agency in 2004 issued $117 million of tax-exempt bonds for the Manhattan development, in which 20% of the units were reserved for low-income residents. The building could lose its federal low-income housing tax credits if the parties fail to comply with the consent decree.
AvalonBay also agreed to inspect and if needed make retrofits to six other properties in the city, including Avalon Bowery Place I and II, which were financed with $142.3 million of HFA-issued bonds, and Avalon Morningside Park, financed with $100 million of bonds from the New York City Housing Development Corp.