On August 27, 1998, plaintiff, an advocacy group, filed this lawsuit under §504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 on behalf of persons with mobility impairments eligible for housing assistance from the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA). This action was filed against the PHA in the Philadelphia Division of the United States Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff, ADAPT of Philadelphia, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that PHA was violating the Rehabilitation Act. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that by not making enough units available in the PHA system handicap-accessible, the PHA, as a recipient of federal funds ran afoul of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
PHA administers public housing benefits in the City of Philadelphia through being a direct provider of housing, as well as issuing Section 8 'vouchers' for low-rent housing. The total capacity at the time of filing was 20,000 units. 13,000 of those units were in 'high-rise' buildings. 7,000 were in 'scattered-site' buildings which were built into rowhouse-like blocs adjacent to one another. Plaintiffs alleged that there were not enough accessible scattered-site units.
PHA received block grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for renovation and modernization from 1993 to 1997. Before renovations, PHA had no mobility-impaired accessible scattered-site units. After renovations, PHA only had 22 accessible units. Accessible units for persons with mobility impairments represented only 2.7% of the scattered-site units.
Implementing regulations of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require that if renovations take place in a structure, and the renovation costs 75% or more of the replacement cost of the unit, then 5% of the renovated housing must be "made accessible for people with mobility impairments." 24 C.F.R. § 8.22(b).
On April 14, 2000, following a non-jury trial, the Court (Judge Harvey Bartle III) entered partial findings of fact to assist the parties in reaching a settlement agreement. The Court found that PHA was covered by the HUD regulation and was required to make 5% of its scattered-site units accessible to people with mobility impairments, and that furthermore, that the cost of such alterations was not prohibitively expensive.
On May 20, 2002, the parties entered into a private settlement agreement , which was filed under seal. The entire document is not currently available, so the duration and exact contents of the PHA's obligations under the settlement agreement are unknown at this time. The contents of the settlement agreement are detailed in later litigation to enforce the settlement agreement.
Under the Settlement Agreement, the PHA was required to construct 248 units accessible to persons with mobility impairments by December 2005 (with 124 to be available in December 2003). The Settlement Agreement also stipulated the locations of the accessible units, with a proviso that if the PHA decided to construct the units elsewhere, it would seek the Plaintiff's approval, which would be given or denied within 15 days of notice.
Plaintiffs rejected several 'off-settlement' unit proposals in the "Tasker Homes" because plaintiffs believed they were in conventional buildings and not scattered-site units. The PHA sued to enforce the settlement agreement, alleging the Plaintiff's approval was unreasonably withheld. The Court found in the PHA's favor and certified the "Tasker Homes" as satisfying the PHA's obligations under the settlement agreement.
On June 8, 2004, the Court again approved another batch of the "Tasker Homes" as satisfying the PHA's settlement obligations after the Court found that the Plaintiffs approval was unreasonably withheld.
On August 29, 2005, the Court entered an Order following an evidentiary hearing on yet another alleged violation of the Settlement Agreement. Plaintiffs claimed that the PHA was not taking steps to "maximize use" of accessible scattered-site units, in contravention of the Settlement Agreement. The Resident Advisory Board (RAB) moved to intervene as a defendant. The motion was granted, and the RAB presented testimony that the occupants of the units in question were disabled, but not dependent on wheelchairs for mobility. The Court found violations, but found that they were moot, and encouraged the Plaintiffs to be vigilant in ensuring compliance with the Settlement Agreement.
During the course of the evidentiary hearing, the PHA filed several interlocutory appeals contesting discovery orders entered by the District Court.
On January 9, 2006, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals (Judges Roth, Fuentes, and Garth), in a published opinion authored by Judge Garth (433 F.3d 353) found that the litigation was piecemeal and that the appellate court did not have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. The Court vacated the appeal.
On May 11, 2006, The plaintiffs informed the District Court in a letter that the PHA had complied with its obligations under the Settlement Agreement.
On May 15, 2007, the District Court denied the plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees as untimely. There has been no litigation following the entry of this order.Blase Kearney - 06/12/2012
Greg in den Berken - 10/16/2014