Los Angeles redevelopment agency settles False Claims Act allegations for $3.1 million

by Ben Vernia | February 13th, 2020

On February 6, the Department of Justice announced that CRA/LA, a redevelopment agency, has agreed to settle False Claims Act allegations for $3.1 million. According to DOJ’s press release:

CRA/LA agreed to pay $3.1 million to resolve allegations that its predecessor violated the False Claims Act by knowingly failing to comply with federal accessibility laws when it financed and assisted in the development of affordable housing in the City of Los Angeles supported by federal funds, the Department of Justice announced.  

CRA/LA is the successor of the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, a local redevelopment agency that financed and assisted in the development of multifamily affordable housing using local tax monies and federal community development grants.  In June 2011, the State of California dissolved all redevelopment agencies.  CRA/LA is winding down the affairs of its predecessor.

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Recipients of federal housing development funds must comply with federal accessibility laws, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Fair Housing Act.  These laws prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in activities receiving federal financial assistance.  For example, they require five percent of all units in certain federally-assisted multifamily housing be accessible for people with mobility impairments and an additional two percent be accessible for people with visual and auditory impairments.  Recipients of federal funds must likewise implement accessible programs related to housing, including maintaining a publicly-available list of accessible units with a description of their accessibility features, adopting policies and procedures to ensure that people who need the accessibility features of particular units occupy them, and designating at least one individual to coordinate accessibility efforts.

The settlement resolves claims against CRA/LA in a lawsuit alleging that the CRA/LA’s predecessor, along with the City of Los Angeles, received money from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development based on false claims they were complying with federal accessibility laws.  As to the CRA/LA’s predecessor, the United States’ lawsuit alleged at least nine multifamily housing properties fell significantly short of federal accessibility laws since 2005.  Examples of alleged defects included:

  • slopes and ramps too steep for people in wheelchairs;
  • tall thresholds restricting wheelchair access;
  • kitchen cabinets, shelves, and surfaces outside the accessible reach range of people in wheelchairs;
  • sinks, grab bars, and mailboxes mounted outside the accessible reach range of people in wheelchairs;
  • uninsulated pipes below sinks and lavatories;
  • a lack of accessible parking spaces; and
  • insufficient visual alarms and tactile signs for people with hearing and visual impairments.  

The United States’ claims against the City of Los Angeles have not been resolved and are still pending in the litigation.

The case originated with a whistleblower’s qui tam lawsuit, but the Government did not announce the share the relator would receive.

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