FORT WORTH - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has reached an agreement with the Houston Housing Authority. The agreement settles allegations that the housing authority initially refused a Deaf resident’s requests to have a sign language interpreter present at a hearing to determine her eligibility to remain in HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program.
The resident alleged that when the housing authority refused to provide an interpreter, she was forced to use her daughter, who is a minor and is not fluent in American Sign Language, to interpret for her. Additionally, the resident alleged that the housing authority’s refusal to provide an interpreter caused her to lose her HCV program eligibility.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that no otherwise qualified individual with disabilities shall be discriminated against under any program or activity receiving federal funds. In addition, the Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating against persons with disabilities.
“Everyone should be able to understand their housing rights and options," said Mark Brezina, HUD's Acting Region VI Administrator. "For a Deaf person receiving HUD rental assistance, a Public Housing Authority may need to provide an interpreter to convey information, particularly when a person's continued tenancy is at stake."
In her complaint, the resident alleged that she twice asked the housing authority to provide a translator for the hearing, but none was provided, and that the complex nature of her HCV eligibility hearing prevented her daughter from effectively interpreting for her. The outcome of the hearing was that the resident’s housing assistance was terminated. After the resident filed a complaint with HUD, the housing authority held a second hearing, during which an interpreter was provided. Following the second hearing, the resident’s housing assistance was reinstated.
Under the agreement, the Houston Housing Authority paid $4,251 in rental assistance payments that were owed to the resident's landlord for the period her rental assistance was terminated. The housing authority also notified its employees of its intent to provide sign language interpreters for individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing, agreed to inform new HCV program participants of their right to request reasonable accommodations, including interpreters, and agreed not to retaliate against the resident or her children in any way.
Anyone who believes that a housing provider has discriminated against him or her because of a disability should contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 (voice), 800-927-9275 (TTY).
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.