Tempe apartments for the deaf accused of discrimination
TEMPE, Ariz. -
It's a valley apartment complex that caters to residents who are hearing impaired. But this complex has been accused of catering too much to those with disabilities, and the government believes it's discriminatory.
Residents of this apartment complex say their concerns are falling on deaf ears.
"As a deaf person, I feel like I have a right to live where I'd like to live," says resident George Sierra.
It's quiet here, but plenty's being said in sign language.
"I would be devastated. I would cry. I want to stay here, we need this place," says Rose Marie Prynce, resident.
The Apache ASL Apartments in Tempe on Apache Blvd near Loop 101 is one of the few apartments in the U.S. built specifically for the deaf.
A video phone lets residents ‘talk' with friends. Every unit accommodates a wheelchair. Blinking lights signal the doorbell, disposal and fans.
"It's nice to have a life that's equivalent to other people that are not deaf," says manager Linda Russell.
HUD -- Housing and Urban Development -- spent $2.6 million to help build the project because it helped the deaf.
But now the very federal agency that asked it be built to house the deaf says the complex is guilty of discriminating against people who are not deaf -- and is demanding 75% of the units be rented to those who are not disabled.
"To basically say there are too many disabled people here is just nuts," says Senator Jeff Flake.
"The attorney's I dealt with at HUD, I would characterize as ignorant and arrogant and much worse, they are powerful," says Michael Trailor, Arizona Department of Housing Director.
Trailor met with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan months ago to resolve the issue.
"He looked me in the eye and said, 'If you say we have taken too long to resolve this, you are right. If you say we haven't handled this very well, you're right."
Yet 5 months later, nothing's changed.
"I'm really disappointed and I'm disappointed with their inability to not understand out there in the hearing world, it's really lonely to be deaf," says Russell.
We contacted the Housing And Urban Development Administration -- they declined to comment.
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