Advocating for Reasonable Accommodation and

Advocating for Reasonable
Accommodation and
Reasonable Modification With
Midwest Regional Housing Forum
September 11, 2003
Ann O’Hara
Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc.
What is a PHA?
Public Housing Authority
Separate government organization
Administer 3.2 million government subsidized
housing resources for low income households
3000+ PHAs nationally
State PHAs
Local PHAs
How Do PHA Programs Work?
US Department of
Housing and Urban Development
Public Housing
Very Low and
Low-Income Households
PHA Programs
Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program
– 2 million vouchers
 Public Housing program – 1.2 million units
 Hope VI program – Public Housing
PHAs and Fair Housing
PHA programs must comply with federal Fair
Housing laws
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973)
Fair Housing Act (1988)
People with disabilities must have an equal
opportunity to participate in PHA programs
 Under these laws, PHAs must provide
“reasonable modification” and “reasonable
accommodation” for people with disabilities
when needed to facilitate participation
Reasonable Modification
Making physical modifications to a housing unit
or common area/facilities so that it can be used
by a person with a disability
Unit modifications such as wider doorways, entrance
ramps, accessible bathroom and kitchen, etc.
Common areas/facility modifications such as laundry
rooms, parking areas, etc.
Modification is “reasonable” if it does not impose
an “undue financial burden” on the owner
Reasonable Accommodation
A change in a housing program policy or
practice in order to facilitate participation by
people with disabilities
 Examples
Modifying application procedures
Modifying screening criteria
Modifying other rules/policies
“Reasonable” accommodation defined as one
that does not alter the fundamental nature of the
program and does not impose an undue
financial burden
PHAs and Fair Housing Laws
Some PHAs do not understand their Fair
Housing obligations
PHAs required to do an assessment of their Fair
Housing policies and practices
PHAs required to inform people with disabilities
of their right to request a reasonable
modification/reasonable accommodation
PHAs required to have written policies
PHA Section 504 Coordinator
Disability advocates need to engage PHAs to
ensure compliance with Fair Housing Laws
Section 8 Voucher Program
Largest federal housing assistance program (2
million units)
 Helps assist low income-families, elders, and
people with disabilities to pay for decent and
safe housing
 Provides financial assistance in the private
housing market through a rent “subsidy” which is
based on (1) household income and (2) the cost
of housing
Benefits of Section 8 for People
with Disabilities
People can rent/own housing of their choice in
communities of their choice
It is permanent, long term, and affordable – Tenants
typically pay between 30% and 40% of their income
towards housing costs
It is independent housing which can be linked with – but
is separate from – flexible services and supports
Section 8 tenant-based and project-based programs
Section 8 homeownership program
How does the Section 8
program actually work?
Section 8 is not an entitlement! (Less than 300,000 nonelderly disabled households currently receive Section 8
voucher assistance)
 Households must apply and get on the PHA waiting list
 PHAs are permitted to give “preference” to people with
disabilities – not many do
 Once a Section 8 voucher is “issued”, the household must
identify housing in the private rental market that can be
approved under the Section 8 rules
 The Section 8 subsidy is paid directly to the owner
 The Section 8 household pays their share of the rent (30%
to 40% of their income) directly to the owner
Section 8 and People with
Section 8 is complicated
PHAs can be bureaucratic
People with disabilities can have difficulty
accessing/using the Section 8 program
Federal Fair Housing Laws can help
PHAs may not fully understand their
responsibilities under federal Fair Housing laws
Key Section 8 Activities
Outreach and Application Process
Eligibility and Screening
Waiting List
Getting a Voucher
Section 8 Fair Market Rents and Utility
Leasing Process
On-going Program Responsibilities
PHAs are required to do outreach to the community to:
 Establish a new Section 8 waiting list
 To add names to an existing Section 8 waiting list
 PHAs are allowed to limit outreach to those households
that are potentially eligible for the vouchers
 PHAs have “mixed” track record on outreach to people
with disabilities
 PHAs can provide advance notice to disability
organizations as a reasonable accommodation
 PHAs can provide assistance with Section 8 application
process as a reasonable accommodation
Screening Criteria
Eviction from public housing or termination from
Section 8 program
Recent drug related or violent criminal activity
Fraud in a HUD program
Owes $$ to a PHA
Prior tenant history – at discretion of PHA
Exceptions as reasonable accommodation for
people with disabilities
Getting a Voucher and
Obtaining Housing
Participant is given 60-120 days to search for
appropriate housing
 Reasonable accommodation to obtain additional
housing search time
Exception Rents
 PHA can approve up to 110 percent of Fair Market
 HUD can approve up to 120 percent of Fair Market
 Higher rents have been approved by HUD
 Exceptions needed for modified or barrier-free units
 Exceptions needed in high cost areas
Other Section 8 Reasonable
Section 8 “Special Housing Types”
 Group Homes
 Congregate Housing
 SRO units
 Shared Housing (roommates)
Unrelated disabled households approach – two or
more unrelated people with disabilities sharing a
Approval of larger unit size to accommodate live-in
aide or support service staff
Section 8 Homeownership option
Public Housing Program
Application process
 Screening criteria
 Lease termination/eviction
 Unit and common area modifications
Hope VI Opportunities
Hundreds of Hope VI grants now being
implemented by PHAs
 “Mixed income” and revitalized public housing
 Opportunities for:
New public housing units
Community integration
Accessible units
Visitable housing
Increasing participation by people with disabilities in
federal public housing program
Off-set loss of public housing from “elderly only”
housing policies
Engaging PHAs
Goal is systematic change – not case by case
Educate on Fair Housing laws, Olmstead
decision and needs of people with disabilities
“Culture” of some PHAs
Collect and use data
Have a strategy - Know what you want to
Engage PHA membership organizations (State
Engaging PHAs (2)
Involve allies
 State Protection and Advocacy organizations
 Legal services organizations
 Disability rights groups
 Self-advocacy groups
 Disability organizations
 HUD Fair Housing/Equal Opportunity Office can
 Be persistent – the law is on your side!

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