Critics of the dormitory-style apartment buildings known as microhousing are able to say, “I told you so!” about at least one of their myriad arguments against the developments.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today a settlement with developer Calhoun Properties and architect ECCO Design over a complaint that their Capitol Hill aPodment project The Centro on E John at 13th “discriminated against persons with disabilities by failing to design and construct the 56-unit complex in a way that meets the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act.”
From the HUD statement:
Under the terms of the agreement, the owner, builder and architectural firm will make modifications to the project’s public and common use areas and a unit to enhance accessibility.
In addition, the owner, builder, and architectural firm agreed to retain the services of an accessibility consultant to conduct onsite inspections of interiors of covered units in all their other recently constructed projects and to make all recommended accessibility retrofits. The builder, architect, and other individuals responsible for accessible design features at the property will also attend Fair Housing Act design and construction training.
The agreement settles what the department calls “a HUD Secretary-initiated complaint” that Calhoun and ECOO designed and constructed units that do not comply with the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction requirements.
The HUD statement says an August 2013 inspection of the project revealed that units in the building were not accesible to people with disabilities:
For example, the project has walkways that are too steep; outlets and thermostatic controls that are too high to be reached by individuals using wheelchairs; doors with inaccessible thresholds; and bathrooms that do not contain enough space for people using wheelchairs. HUD’s inspection also found that the complex has mailboxes that are too high to be reached by individuals using wheelchairs, and a common laundry room that is too narrow for wheelchair access.
It’s not clear yet what the settlement will mean for any of the eight other Calhoun-owned aPodment-style projects in the Capitol Hill area or any new projects in development. The settlement does stipulate that the companies “retain the services of an accessibility consultant” to inspect the properties.
Earlier this year, CHS reported on the ongoing backlash from some community groups against microhousing as an effort to hold up new regulations for the development type was denied by the Hearing Examiner. The new rules will subject microhousing to environmental and design review. Microhousing projects have flourished on Capitol Hill as rents and the demand for housing continue to rise.