HUD issued a Supplemental Letter of Findings to the City of Los Angeles on April 1 detailing the City’s ongoing failure to provide accessible housing for low-income people with disabilities. The letter from HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) is based on on-site accessibility reviews conducted in June 2017 of 16 housing developments that received HOME Investment Partnerships and Community Development Block Grant funds from the City. HUD finds that the City continues to have significant and widespread accessibility violations throughout its affordable housing program and continues to violate the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Section 504 prohibits discrimination against any individual with a disability solely on the basis of the disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. HUD’s Section 504 regulation requires that new construction and the substantial alteration of multifamily housing projects assisted with federal funds have at least 5% of the units accessible for people with mobility disabilities, and an additional 2% of the units accessible for people with hearing or vision disabilities. The rule also requires other alterations to be made accessible to the maximum extent feasible.
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the services, programs, and activities of public entities, including agencies of state and local governments. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Title II ADA regulation mirrors HUD’s Section 504 regulation regarding units. Both Title II and Section 504 regulations also require that an entity operate each service, program, or activity so that they are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
In the fall of 2011, HUD conducted an on-site compliance review focusing on 22 properties, finding deficiencies related to the physical accessibility of individual housing units and property common areas. For example, HUD found bathrooms that did not allow wheelchairs to maneuver in them and kitchens with inaccessible sinks and counters. In addition, routes to units, the laundry room, and common areas were not accessible. HUD issued a Letter of Findings of Non-compliance with Section 504 and Title II on January 12, 2012. HUD announced on September 26, 2014 that it had reached a voluntary compliance agreement (VCA) focused on those 22 properties.
The April 1, 2019 Letter of Supplemental Findings claims, however, that HUD has repeatedly tried to negotiate with the City regarding a VCA that would remedy noncompliance in the City’s current inaccessible affordable housing stock, ensure that future construction of affordable housing meets accessibility requirements, and establish policies, procedures, and practices to ensure its affordable housing program does not discriminate against individuals with disabilities. HUD asserts that the City has been unwilling to finalize and execute a VCA that would put the City on a path toward remedying its past, ongoing, and future violations of federal law. Therefore, FHEO issued the Supplemental Letter of Findings.
HUD claims none of the 16 developments FHEO surveyed complied with Section 504 or Title II, offering examples of specific violations:
- Developments lacked the minimum number of mobility-accessible units (5%) and sensory-accessible units (an additional 2%).
- Every designated accessible unit surveyed contained significant accessibility barriers.
- Public and common-use areas in developments did not comply with accessibility requirements.
- Widespread incidences of individuals who did not have a disability occupying designated accessible units while individuals with disabilities in the same development occupied non-designated, inaccessible units.
- Developments did not have practices in place that prioritized designated accessible units for tenants/applicants who need accessible features.
- Failure to disperse designated accessible units throughout developments.
HUD also alleges the City continues to have deficient policies and practices, citing problems relating to monitoring occupancy of designated accessible units, failure to properly identify or require the use of the accessibility standards in its agreements with developers, and insufficient pre-completion onsite reviews or adequate post-construction onsite inspections
To remedy the deficiencies, HUD requires the City to:
- Resolve all findings identified in FHEO’s 2012 Letter of Findings and those identified in the current letter.
- Remediate housing in the City’s existing portfolio to ensure that the requisite number of designated accessible units are provided at each development and that those units, as well as public and common-use areas, meet accessibility requirements and standards.
- Ensure that all future developments, including those currently in the City’s affordable housing pipeline, meet accessibility requirements and standards.
- Revise and implement policies, practices, and procedures to fully comply with federal laws and regulations prohibiting disability discrimination, including but not limited to accessibility, occupancy, and effective communication requirements.
- Undertake a process to identify individuals with disabilities who have been harmed by the City’s violations of accessibility requirements and standards and provide redress for such harms by providing them with an accessible unit with the accessibility features they need in the appropriate unit size to accommodate their household.
HUD’s April 1 Supplemental Letter of Findings is at: https://bit.ly/2CTB5bJ
The 2014 Voluntary Compliance Agreement is at: https://bit.ly/2uJkJOm