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1 HARD TO HOUSE POPULATIONS & REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS VICKI JOHNSON Enforcement Branch Chief Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Miami Office

2 Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Enforces the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws Ensures the right of equal housing opportunity and fair housing choice without discrimination 2

3 FHEO MISSION Investigate complaints of housing discrimination Promote fair housing education and outreach Monitor recipients of Federal financial assistance Ensure compliance with civil rights laws 3

4 FHEO Organizational Structure Atlanta Regional Office Receives all housing discrimination inquiries Miami Program Center receives cases from Atlanta Regional Office and assigns to local HUD Office Local HUD Offices (Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Puerto Rico) Investigate cases involving Respondents receiving Federal financial assistance FHAP Agencies Investigate cases, assigned by the Atlanta Regional Office, where federal funds are not involved 4

5 Laws that FHEO Enforces: Fair Housing Act Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act Section 109 of Title I of the Housing Act of 1973 Section 3 of the HUD Act of

6 Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (the Fair Housing Act) prohibits housing discrimination because of: Race Handicap (disability) Color Religion Sex Familial status National Origin File within 365 days of the alleged act 6

7 Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) Prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities Applies to all services, programs, and activities provided or made available by public entities* Includes all activities of State and local governments whether they receive Federal funds File within 180 days of the alleged act **Private entities such as the application office, laundry facilities, public and common areas 7

8 Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 No qualified individual with a disability shall be excluded from participation in, denied benefits of, or subjected to discrimination under any program receiving HUD funds File within 180 days of the alleged act 8

9 HUD Programs Covered by Section 504 Low-income housing Housing for people who are elderly or disabled Community development programs Programs for the homeless Fair Housing Assistance Program 9

10 WHO IS PROTECTED BY SECTION 504 An individual with a disability is: A person who has a physical/mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; Has a record of such an impairment; or Is regarded as having an impairment 10

11 Who Is Protected By Section 504 continued physical impairments include limited vision or hearing, limited mobility mental impairments include mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities; major life activities are everyday things such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, working, or caring for yourself 11

12 Program Accessibility Program accessibility means that a program, when viewed in its entirety, is readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Applies to a recipient s housing and non-housing programs and activities. 12

13 Program Accessibility cont Recipients must take all steps to ensure that their programs are accessible to the maximum extent feasible, which means the recipient would be required to take all steps that provide the necessary access, but which would not constitute an undue financial and administrative burden, or require a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program 13

14 How to assure Program Accessibility Evaluate housing policies and practices Take appropriate corrective steps Develop reasonable accommodation policy and procedures Train staff on how to handle accommodation requests Designate a Section 504 coordinator (required by regulations for recipients with 15 or more employees) 14

15 Effective Communications A recipient should ensure communications and information is readily accessible by all disabled persons Conduct outreach to disabled persons and community. Provide auxiliary aids for visual/hearing impaired Provide alternative process for receiving or submitting applications. Always include notice that reasonable accommodations are provided. 15

16 Non-Housing Facilities New facilities must be accessible. Alternations to existing facilities shall to the maximum extent feasible be accessible to disabled persons. 16

17 Housing Facilities New construction must be accessible Existing housing facilities alterations shall, to the maximum extent feasible, be made accessible to disabled persons. 17

18 Housing Programs A recipient shall modify its housing policies and practices to ensure that they do not discriminate on the basis of disability. For example: Meetings shall be in accessible locations Cannot prohibit attendees from using assistive devices or auxiliary aides 18

19 Reasonable Accommodations A Reasonable Accommodation is a change in rules, policies, practices or services that may be necessary to provide a person with a disability with an equal opportunity to obtain housing and to use and enjoy his or her home. Since persons with disabilities may have special needs due to their disabilities, in some cases, simply treating them exactly the same as others may not ensure that they have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. 19

20 R.A. continued.. A recipient is not required to make accommodations that impose an undue financial or administrative burden or would create a fundamental alteration in its programs or services. The recipient must demonstrate that the accommodation would create an undue burden or fundamental alteration. 20

21 Reasonable Accommodation Requests Request does not have to be in writing Requestor does not have to use the words reasonable accommodation Requestor does not have to be the disabled person Once a recipient becomes aware of a disabled person s need for accommodation, the recipient must do something!!! 21

22 Responding to Requests Grant it immediately or within a reasonable time period AND notify the disabled person Request documentation from healthcare provider only if it is needed to establish disability status and/or the nexus between the disability and the requested accommodation. Engage in interactive dialogue with the disabled person if the accommodation requested is not feasible. 22

23 Direct Threat Exception A recipient is not required to accommodate a person whose tenancy is a direct threat to the health or safety of others or whose tenancy would cause substantial damages to the property. The direct threat exception must be based on recent, credible and objective evidence. Before terminating housing assistance, a recipient must explore whether other reasonable accommodations are available 23

24 Disability Related Violations If there is a program/lease violation that is related to a person s disability; the recipient may not terminate assistance until they first ask if there is an accommodation or modification that would address the program/lease violation. 24

25 What is reasonable? What is reasonable is determined on a case-bycase basis. However, the following case studies and examples may be helpful: 25

26 Case Study Parking Space Former tenant who is mobility impaired and used a walker, requested that one of two accessible parking spaces be assigned to her rather than a tenant who did not own a car and a tenant who moved in after her. After the R.A. was denied, the tenant tripped and fell when exiting her car and needed emergency medical treatment. She then decided to move. Result - $75,000 settlement to former tenant, and housing authority required to implement a comprehensive R.A. policy, attend fair housing training, and agree to other injunctive relief. United States v. Housing Authority of the City of Buenaventura (W.D. Cal.) 26

27 Case Study Evicted While in Diabetic Coma Tenant with multiple mental and physical disabilities, went into a diabetic coma and was hospitalized. The next day his sister met with the manager and asked if she needed to make arrangements to pay his rent. The manager assured her everything was ok. A few days later, manager left notices on tenant s door about unpaid rent and he was evicted. During the investigation, manager stated she couldn t deal with someone with a mental disability Result - $45,000 settlement to tenant, injunctive relief United States v. Ashford County Housing Authority (M.D. Ala.) 27

28 Case Study Transfer to First Floor, Building with Elevator The complainant, a double leg amputee who uses a wheelchair, and his wife, who is also disabled, asked on several occasions to move from their third floor unit to a first floor unit so that they would not be dependent on the elevators and would not have to travel as far to get to their unit. The defendants denied the requests despite the availability of two first floor units. Result $125,000 settlement to the complainants and a fair housing organization that assisted them; and H.A. must implement a comprehensive reasonable accommodation policy, attend fair housing training and to submit to standard injunctive relief. United States v. Housing Auth. of the City of San Antonio, et al. (W.D. Tex.) 28

29 Case Study Transfer to First Floor Denied Because of H.A. s Policy Property manager agreed that a mobility impaired tenant could be transferred to a first floor unit. When discussing the proposed transfer with the H.A., the HQS inspector said the tenant could not transfer because a Section 8 tenant must remain in a unit for 1 year before transferring to another unit. Result - $10,000 settlement to the tenant and injunctive relief. United States v. Mississippi Regional Hous. Auth. VIII (S.D. Miss.) 29

30 Case Study Tenant Denied Transfer Needed Due to Smoke A tenant with respiratory disability was denied a transfer after notifying H.A. that second hand cigarette smoke from her neighbors was entering her unit and adversely affecting her. Result - injunctive relief, including fair housing training, develop R.A. policy and procedures, implement smoke-free building. Complainant intervened and litigated a private settlement. United States v. Seattle Housing Authority (W.D. Wash.) 30

31 Case Study Transfer Needed Due to Hostile Environment Tenant with panic disorder repeatedly complained that her downstairs neighbor was creating a disturbance, slamming doors, etc. which adversely affected her. H.A. policy permitted transferring to another unit only for mobility impaired tenants. Result out of court monetary settlement with tenant, $65,000 compensation fund for other aggrieved persons, and other injunctive relief including revising the transfer policy. United States v. Fitchburg Housing Authority, et al. (D. Mass.) 31

32 Case Study Tenant Denied Transfer from Project Based Section 8 unit Mother and her 4 year old son were taken hostage in their unit by a man wanted for murder who ended the police standoff by attempting suicide in the son s presence. Mother and son developed PTSD and found it impossible to live in the unit. Tenant requested to be transferred from site based Section 8 program and to be given a Housing Choice Voucher. H.A. said it was contractual issue; the landlord refused to let her out of the lease. Result Injunctive relief, H.A. must notify U.S. whenever it refuses a R.A. request. United States v. Housing Authority of the City of Aurora (D. Colo.) 32

33 Other Examples of Reasonable Accommodations Widening Doorways Allowing a ramp to be built Providing grab bars in the bathroom Allowing a larger unit to accommodate a Private Care Assistant (PCA) 33

34 Examples continued Allowing a service animal Reading notices to the tenant or providing notices in Braille, large print or audio tape Removing protruding objects from outside pathway 34

35 Examples continued Move a tenant to another part of the building where it is quieter, if requested Place an application back on the waiting list if they missed their intake interview, or were late with the needed paperwork because of the disability If requested, intervene with other tenants if the tenant is being harassed 35

36 Examples continued ENVIRONMENTAL DISABILITIES: Using non-chemical or toxic free fertilizers on the landscape areas of the complex. Removing carpet from the floors of the apartment, if requested. Posting No-Smoking signs in common use areas such as the office, hallways, lobby and laundry room. 36


38 When in doubt...

39 Surf the Fair Housing Sections of the HUDWeb at 39