McCORDSVILLE – A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit accusing a senior apartments development underway in McCordsville of violating laws ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities.
The agreement stems from the complaint the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana and other housing advocacy groups across the country filed against entities affiliated with Clover Group, based in Williamsville, New York, in a U.S. district court in New York.
That complaint accuses dozens of Clover Group’s multi-family rental housing complexes in the Midwest and Northeast of not complying with the federal Fair Housing Act accessibility requirements. Three of those properties are in Indiana, one of which is Gardens on Gateway Senior Apartments located at 7357 N. Gateway Crossing Blvd. in McCordsville. Construction continues on the three-story, 119-unit property that’s slated to open in winter 2022/2023, according to Clover Group’s website. The property’s one- and two-bedroom units will be restricted to residents age 55 and older, with monthly rents for one-bedroom units starting at $1,135.
The settlement agreement requires an estimated $3 million in retrofits to public and common use areas at the Clover Group properties to improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities, according to a news release from the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana. Those include providing accessible routes around the exterior and common use areas, adding additional ramps and curb cuts and replacing sidewalks that have excessive slopes.
Clover Group will also set aside funds totaling $3.375 million to pay for modifications to individual units at the request of any resident or applicant at the 50 properties included in the agreement. Such modifications would improve access for individuals who use wheelchairs or have other mobility limitations and could include replacing sliding doors at patios or balconies to provide a wider opening and lower threshold, providing ramps at patio or balcony doors, adding grab bars, replacing bathroom vanities or sinks, installing roll-in showers or hand-held showers, lowering kitchen countertops, and lowering thermostats and light switches. Current tenants and new applicants will be notified of the availability of funds for unit modifications.
Neither the complaint nor the settlement agreement address specific violations or retrofits at Gardens on Gateway in McCordsville.
Clover Group did not return a request for comment.
Ryan Crum, McCordsville assistant town manager – planning and development, said the work underway at Gardens on Gateway appears to align with the requirements outlined in the settlement or that there are plans to do so as work progresses.
“We believe that they’re doing all those things thus far,” Crum said.
Erik Pullum, McCordsville building commissioner, noted one accessibility addition the development made that the town asked for was a sidewalk from a common porch. He added some bathroom vanities have been changed to pedestal sinks as well.
“There will be other things that we’ll check toward the end of the build to make sure it meets their plans and that their plans meet all the accessibility standards in the state like accessing their mailboxes and things,” Pullum said. “That stuff doesn’t go in normally until the end.”
Per the settlement agreement, Clover Group will also pay $750,000 to the fair housing organizations to compensate them for staff time and other resources expended to investigate the alleged accessibility violations and for attorneys’ fees. Additionally, any Clover Group employees involved in the design and construction of multifamily housing will complete training on the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
Amy Nelson, Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, called the outcome an important victory.
“Across Indiana, tenants are facing a housing crisis, but for persons with disabilities that crisis is even more acute because of older housing that is not required to be accessible or because of newer housing that is not built to meet fair housing design and construction requirements,” Nelson said in the news release. “With this agreement, more senior residents will have access to housing units that better meet their needs and be able to age in place as they choose.”