Disability News /KLKC
HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity issued guidance on 8/11/2011 to its regional and field offices regarding enforcement of the ADA, Section 504 and particularly the Olmstead decision. It noted that HUD has "prioritized efforts to support the transition of people with disabilities out of institutions and into community-based settings." The guidance "highlights civil rights related compliance and monitoring strategies to ensure that public housing programs operate in a manner that supports this important objective."
HUD pointed out that Section 504 imposed "an affirmative obligation on Public Housing Authorities to assess the housing needs of persons with disabilities in their local service area, which includes persons transitioning from institutional to community-based settings." Under a PHA's housing choice voucher program, this affirmative duty includes ensuring that PHA's "adopt suitable means to assure that the notice [of the availability of vouchers] reaches" persons in institutions.
HUD has a duty to monitor and conduct compliance reviews, including:
1. focusing "on the extent to which the PHA is meeting its obligation to afford persons with disabilities transitioning from institutions an opportunity to participate or benefit from the PHA's public housing [and] Housing Choice Vouchers."
2. reviewing "the community's need for accessible units," including increasing "the required percentage of mobility accessible units beyond the 5% floors." To determine this increased need, HUD recommends using the American Community Survey and the Census.
3. ensuring that "accessible units" are occupied by persons who "require the features of the accessible unit."
4. determining if the PHA has an "up-to-date listing of accessible units" for its voucher program.
5. maintaining a "waiting list" that has information regarding which individuals require accessible vacant units.
The FHEO pointed out that in June 2009 Secretary Donovan urged PHAs to "adopt a local preference in their admission policies for the Housing Choice Voucher program for persons with disabilities who are ready to exit institution."
To actually implement this preference, as well as ##1-5 above, will most likely require advocates file with HUD a complaint that the underling federal regulation requirements in ##1-5 above are violated by your PHA.
Such a complaint enables the FHEO regional and field offices to investigate.
If there is a violation, then HUD can "make efforts to encourage local admission preferences for persons transitioning. Consider negotiating a term in the Voluntary Compliance Agreement for the establishment of a local admission preference for persons transitioning from institutional to community-based settings, [including} preference for a certain number of vouchers."
While HUD can initiate monitoring and compliance reviews on its own, we suggest that advocates contact your HUD FHEO regional and field offices, set up a meeting with the local directors, determine if they will on their own do such monitoring and compliance, and if they will not, then file a complaint. Just write a letter and explain the basis of the complaint. No magic. Just do it!
This HUD guidance, albeit long-overdue, is a clear and strong handle for advocates. Use it.