As part of its settlement with the Washington, D.C.-based Equal Rights Center, Trammell Crow Residential Co. has announced it plans to help form the Equal Rights Center Multifamily Housing Resource Program (MHRP). Trammell Crow committed $1.5 million over the course of 10 years to fund the project.

The ERC initially brought suit against Trammell Crow in July 2007. After discussing the issue of accessibility for well over a year, both the Atlanta-based multifamily developer and the civil rights nonprofit realized they had common ground. Similar to Tom Bozzuto, CEO of The Bozzuto Group, a multifamily owner, operator, and builder based in Greenbelt, Md., Trammell Crow chairman Ron Terwilliger plans to use his stature within the industry to help affect change.

"We're taking the money that we'd be willing to commit to a settlement and directing it to the fair housing center," Terwilliger says. "This entity works with the development community to provide inspection services and certification services."

Terwilliger hopes the center helps developers comply with the Fair Housing Act. Donald L. Kahl, executive director for the Equal Rights Center, has high hopes for the center as well. "The MHRP will allow members and developers to tap into the fair housing and accessibility expertise of the Equal Rights Center in the areas of 'best practices' review and advice, both accessibility and broader fair housing training for members' employees, and on-request accessibility and fair housing testing and evaluations," he says. "The MHRP will also serve as an accessibility information clearinghouse for its members, providing easy access to accessibility related legislation, regulations, and commentary, and making references and referrals to providing fair housing-sensitive vendors on request."

Part of Terwilliger's task will be selling the merits of the center to his colleagues in the business. "I will work on trying to get the industry engaged in a more constructive way with [the Equal Rights Center]," he says. "I view all of this litigation going on as being advantageous only to attorneys."

As part of the agreement, Trammell Crow will also retrofit 4,500 housing units and make them accessible to persons with disabilities. "To be sure, [Trammell Crow's] agreement to remediate a portion of its multifamily properties to make them accessible to people with disabilities, and its commitment to meet the accessibility requirements of the FHA and [the Americans with Disabilities Act] at its future multifamily properties is a great success for the disability community," Kahl says.