HUD, DOJ RELEASE NEW GUIDANCE ON “DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION”
REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE FAIR HOUSING ACT Guidance designed to inform the accessible construction of multifamily housing
WASHINGTON – New guidance released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) reinforces the Fair Housing Act requirement that multifamily housing be designed and constructed so that it isaccessible to persons with disabilities. Read HUD and DOJ’s new guidance.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sex and familial status. The Fair Housing Act also requires that multifamily housing built for first occupancy after March 1991 contain accessible features for persons with disabilities.
The new guidance is designed to assist design professionals, developers and builders in understanding and meeting their obligations and to assist persons with disabilities in understanding their rights regarding the “design and construction” requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act.
“Everyone who is involved in designing and building multifamily housing must ensure that the required accessible features are present so that people with disabilities can use and enjoy their homes,” said Eric Halperin, Senior Counsel and Special Counsel for Fair Lending in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This guidance will help design professionals and builders understand their obligations under this important component of the Fair Housing Act.”
“Today, more than 30 million Americans use a wheelchair or have difficulty walking or climbing stairs and they have every right to live in housing that is accessible to them,” stated John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “This new guidance promotes access and helps developers construct housing that complies with the Fair Housing Act from the start so they don’t have to retrofit later.”
HUD and DOJ share responsibility for enforcing the federal Fair Housing Act. HUD is the agency with the primary responsibility for investigatingindividual complaints of discrimination. The Secretary of HUD, on his own initiative, may also file complaints alleging discrimination. The Attorney General may commence a civil action in federal court when there is reasonable cause to believe that someone is engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination or that a group of persons has been denied rights protected by the Act.
Under the Act, housing built for first occupancy after March 1991 must include:
Public and common use areas that are readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities;
Doors that are designed to allow passage into and within all premises of covered dwellings and that are sufficiently wide to allow passage by persons with disabilities, including persons who use wheelchairs;
An accessible route into and through the dwelling unit;
Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other environmental controls in accessible locations;
Reinforcements in bathroom walls to allow the later installation of grab bars; and
Usable kitchens and bathrooms such that an individual using a wheelchair can maneuver about and use the space.
Since January 2009, HUD and its Fair Housing Assistance Program partners have investigated and either conciliated or charged 300 cases that alleged violations of the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has filed 141 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act since January 2009, 19 of which have alleged discrimination based on a failure to design and construct multifamily housing in compliance with the Act.
Persons who believe they have experienced housing discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. In addition, individuals may contact DOJ at 1-800-896-7743 or they may email DOJ at email@example.com.
HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and http://espanol.hud.gov. You can also follow HUD on twitter @HUDgov, on facebook at www.facebook.com/HUD, or sign up for news alerts on HUD's News Listserv.