Equal Rights Center and Equity Residential Settle Litigation and Agree to Expand Accessible Housing

WASHINGTON, DC - In a settlement resolving a long-pending litigation, Equity Residential based in Chicago, Illinois, has reached agreement with the Equal Rights Center (ERC) – a national civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C. – with respect to accessible housing for people with disabilities in Equity Residential communities.

Under the parties’ agreement, Equity Residential will survey and remediate certain conditions in housing units across the United States at 85 residential properties.

“The Equal Rights Center is pleased to reach this Agreement with Equity Residential, and we look forward to working with them to increase significantly the availability of accessible housing,” said Melvina Ford, Executive Director of the Equal Rights Center. “We applaud Equity Residential and its senior management for their willingness to proactively address issues of accessibility. The real winners here are the tens of millions of people in this country with disabilities who will now have more opportunities as they choose where they want to live.” Added Matthew Handley, the Director of Litigation at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs: “As Congress recognized in passing the Fair Housing Act Amendments in 1988, barriers in the built environment exclude people with disabilities from living in the housing of their choice. After receiving complaints about the widespread lack of accessible housing, the Equal Rights Center began its initiative to ensure equal housing opportunities for people with disabilities. We are delighted that Equity Residential has joined the ERC’s efforts and has agreed to make thousands of units more accessible.”

Since beginning its accessible housing initiative more than 12 years ago, the ERC has reached agreements with sixteen national, regional, and local multifamily companies resulting in the alteration of more than 25,000 apartment and condominium units at more than 300 complexes across the country, to make them more accessible to people with disabilities.

Equity Residential joins other major multifamily companies, including Archstone Smith Trust, Bozzuto, Camden Property Trust, Dittmar, Kettler, and Trammell Crow Residential in multi-year commitments to proactively work with the ERC to improve and ensure accessibility in housing.

The ERC was represented in negotiating its agreement with Equity Residential by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, and the Washington law firms Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Blank Rome LLP. Equity Residential was represented by the law firms Baker Hostetler LLP and Saul Ewing LLP.

About the Equal Rights Center (www.equalrightscenter.org)

Since 1983, the Equal Rights Center (ERC), a national non-profit civil rights organization, has worked to identify, challenge, and eliminate discrimination. The ERC combats discrimination in housing, employment, access to public accommodations and government services, disability rights, and immigrant rights, through education and outreach, research, testing, counseling, and advocacy and enforcement.

About the Washington Lawyers’ Committee (www.washlaw.org)

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for over 45 years has represented both individuals and groups seeking to vindicate their civil rights. It has handled over 5,000 civil rights cases in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other aspects of urban life. It represents people with claims of discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, disability, age, religion, and sexual orientation. Leveraging its own broad expertise in discrimination litigation with the resources of Washington, D.C.'s private bar, the Committee's litigation efforts have become nationally known for landmark court victories, record judgments, and precedent-setting consent decrees. For more information, visit www.washlaw.org; write to: Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, 11 Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036; phone (202) 319-1000; or fax (202) 319-1010.

About Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC (www.cohenmilstein.com)

Founded in 1969, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC is recognized as one of the premier law firms in the country handling major, complex plaintiff-side litigation. With over 90 attorneys, Cohen Milstein has offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Ill., Denver, Colo., New York, N.Y., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Philadelphia, Pa., and Raleigh, N.C. For additional information, visit www.cohenmilstein.com or call 202.408.4600.

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