The United States government announced it is joining a False Claims Act lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles filed by a whistleblower who accuses the city of failing to develop housing for the disabled despite accepting millions of dollars in federal funds earmarked for that purpose.
The lawsuit, filed by wheelchair user Mei Ling, alleges Los Angeles and the CRA/LA (previously known as the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles) falsely certified they complied with federal accessibility laws while accepting housing grants from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
To receive the federal housing funds, the city and CRA/LA had to comply with federal accessibility laws, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, the Fair Housing Act, and other laws protecting the disabled. These measures are meant to ensure that people with disabilities have fair and equal access to public housing.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the city falsely certified its compliance with these laws, which mandate that seven percent of multifamily units be built for those with impaired mobility, sight, or hearing. The city’s compliance with federal accessibility laws was a condition for receiving federal housing grants; therefore, noncompliance with these laws while accepting the grants amounted to false claims, the complaint asserts.
The whistleblower lawsuit claims that none of the HUD-funded multifamily housing in Los Angeles supported by CRA/LA comply, Reuters reports.
“Recipients of federal housing funds must honor their commitments to accommodate people with disabilities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Denying people with disabilities equal access to public housing deprives one of the most disadvantaged groups in society of fair housing opportunities.”
A spokesman for Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said the city will “vigorously fight” the allegations.