Ohio-based builder Miller-Valentine failed to design and construct housing units and other facilities to make them accessible to people with disabilities, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
A press release cited Miller-Valentine and associated companies that built 82 multi-family complexes in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.
About two-thirds of the complexes are in Ohio and, of those 55, about half are in southwest Ohio.
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“For over two decades federal laws have required multifamily housing complexes to be built with accessible features,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities to equal access to housing opportunities, including accessible dwellings and related facilities.”
Miller-Valentine CEO Elizabeth Mangan released a statement Thursday afternoon that said the company had not reviewed the lawsuit and declined specific comments on it.
“Miller-Valentine Operations is a great company that prides itself on providing housing in communities serving a full range of residents. We hire professionals to ensure that all of our properties are designed and constructed to be accessible, adaptable and usable by persons with disabilities,” the statement said.
“We have been building multifamily communities for more than two decades and have always hired reputable design and engineering firms to ensure compliance with federal, state and local accessibility codes. Miller-Valentine Operations does not engage in or support discrimination in any form, and we are not aware of complaints from residents regarding accessibility of our apartment homes,” the statement said.
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The suit alleges the company failed to be in compliance with the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The 82 complexes contain more than 3,000 units required by the FHA to have accessible features and most contain public spaces required to comply with the ADA.
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The press release said that according to complaint, the defendants built many of the complexes with the assistance of federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits or with the financial assistance of other federal government programs.
“We’re in the business of enforcing federal civil rights laws to their fullest extent,” said Benjamin Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. “It doesn’t matter to us whether the defendant is an individual in a single neighborhood or, as here, a company operating in many states.
“The complaint that the United States filed today alleges not only that Miller-Valentine designed and built multi-family housing complexes that are not accessible to people with disabilities, but also that Miller-Valentine took public money to build those complexes and yet still built them such that some citizens wouldn’t be able to live there.”
FEDS SEEK HELP
Federal authorities said anyone with information about the inaccessible conditions at Miller-Valentine properties can call the Dept. of Justice at (800) 896-7743 and follow the prompts to mailbox number 9996, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org