MANATEE -- A discrimination lawsuit has been filed against the Cornerstone Group Development Corp. by the West Palm Beach Coalition for Independent Living Options and the National Fair Housing Alliance.
The suit claims Cornerstone, one of the largest multifamily housing developers in Florida as well as a developer of affordable multi-family housing in the United States, discriminated against those with disabilities at some of their residences. The actions are a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
One of the locations involved in the lawsuit is The Oaks at Ellenton Apartments, according to court papers. Although the property has yet to be inspected by the organizations, according to Anne Houghtaling, director of enforcement and investigations for the alliance, it is possible the violations occurred there as well.
“Typically in these kinds of situations, experts go on site and identify what the violations are,” Houghtaling said. “It’s possible it’s not in violation, but given the fact we’ve been to 28 sites and all 28 have had violations, it’s fairly likely that The Oaks at Ellenton” is in violation as well.
The lawsuit alleges a number of ways in which Cornerstone buildings are inaccessible by those with mobility impairments, a media release said, including kitchens and bathrooms with insufficient maneuvering space for wheelchair users at sinks and toilets, narrow doorways, thermostats placed too high and inaccessible entrances to public spaces including mail rooms.
Houghtaling said the floor plan for a one-bedroom apartment at The Oaks at Ellenton shows a stove that’s attached to a wall, a design that would make it difficult for those with mobility issues to access.
Apartment complexes with alleged violations are located around the state, including ones in Daytona Beach, Florida City, Hialeah, Homestead, Jacksonville, Miami, Ruskin and Tampa.
The two organizations said in a media release that Cornerstone has engaged in a pattern of discrimination against people with disabilities.
“It is always a struggle to find accessible affordable housing for people with disabilities,” said Genevieve Cousminer, executive director of West Palm Beach coalition in a media release. “We have an expectation that the limited supply of housing built after 1991 will be constructed in an accessible fashion. It is discouraging -- and illegal -- when a major developer of housing does not ensure that its new housing is open and accessible for everyone.”
No one from Cornerstone or The Oaks at Ellenton could be reached for comment.