Thursday, March 24, 2011

“Extenuating Circumstances” and Federally Financed Housing.

“Extenuating Circumstances” and Federally Financed Housing. Information Bulletin # 327 (3/2011)
HUD issued a Memorandum to “All public Housing Agencies” entitled “Consideration of Extenuating Circumstances When Screening Applicants with Disabilities.” [1/27/11]

HUD states “it has recently come to the attention” of HUD that people with disabilities “face additional challenges during screening procedures [for public housing and housing choice vouchers] due to poor credit histories, often exacerbated by outstanding medical costs related to their disability.”

Disability advocates have been aware of this for many years so we’re delighted that HUD also now knows about it.

HUD’s letter reminds PHAs that “discretion can and should be applied when determining admissions and occupancy policies.” It further states that HUD “encourages PHAs to consider extenuating circumstances when screening applicants with disabilities.”

While HUD’s “reminder” is very welcomed, disability advocates should remember that under the disability laws – 504, Fair Housing Act, and ADA, reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications of policies are mandatory. The failure to consider the above “extenuating circumstances” as a basis for a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability is a civil rights violation! A policy that blocks such accommodation is also a violation.

The “poor credit history” is only one barrier. Other barriers have also prevented people with disabilities from receiving federal housing benefits - past criminal histories, especially pre-disability; needed extra rooms for durable medical equipment or for live-in personal assistants; mandatory inclusion of costs for meals in 202/811s. We strongly recommend that the reasonable accommodation route be used for all of these barriers.

While the above HUD memo was written by an Assistant Secretary for Public Housing, the same civil rights proscriptions apply to all federally funded housing and to other housing subject to the Fair Housing Act.

Steve Gold, The Disability Odyssey continues

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