Accessibility fixes coming at Atlanta apartments

More than 200 units in three Atlanta apartment communities will be retrofitted to meet federal accessibility guidelines according to a settlement announced Wednesday by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

The lawsuit, filed in 2007 by the Housing Alliance and five related groups including Metro Fair Housing Services in Atlanta, alleged apartments developed by California-based A.G. Spanos did not meet Fair Housing Act guidelines.

The developer agreed to pay approximately $7.4 million to retrofit up to 12,300 apartments in 14 states, according to the settlement.

In metro Atlanta, 234 first-floor units in Alexander at the District, Alexander at the Perimeter and The Battery at Chamblee Station, will undergo renovation to correct accessibility issues, said Foster Corbin, executive director of Metro Fair Housing Services.

Spanos will also contribute $4.2 million to a national fund over five years where renters and homeowners with disabilities, can receive grant money to have work done on their own homes.

Part of the national fund will be set aside specifically for Atlanta residents with disabilities, since not all of the Spanos units in the metro area can be retrofitted, said Corbin and Shanna Smith, chief executive of the Housing Alliance.

“The A.G. Spanos Companies are proud to reach this agreement with Shanna Smith and the National Fair Housing Alliance,” said Michael Spanos, executive vice president of the development company, in a prepared statement. Spanos also said in establishing the National Accessibility Fund the development company is “ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy equal access to housing.”

The settlement was approved late last year by a U.S. District Court judge in California.

The accessibility issues were discovered when a team of undercover investigators working with the Fair Housing Alliance were dispatched to apartment complexes in Georgia, Florida and California posing as potential tenants or buyers, Smith said. Problems in the units ranged from doorways too narrow to accommodate wheelchairs to light switches and thermostats placed out of reach of someone in a wheelchair, she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.