HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 00-66
Further Information: For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685 Thursday
Or contact your local HUD office March 30, 2000


*Changes Expected to Increase Housing Choice For People With Disabilities*

WASHINGTON -- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today announced that HUD has issued its final review of four model building codes. The review was intended to determine how the four codes might be revised to better comply with the Fair Housing Act, thereby ensuring that more apartments and condominiums are built to be accessible to people with disabilities.

"I am pleased that HUD has been able to work with the model code, home building industry and disability advocacy organizations to make it easier for builders to comply with the Fair Housing Act. It helps us create something we all want -- increased housing opportunities for people with disabilities."

The Final Report is intended as a review only for the purpose of providing technical assistance, and does not impose any new requirements on builders, nor does it endorse any particular model code. Even though it has issued this Final Report, HUD continues to work with the model building code organizations, the building industry and disability advocates to further refine recommended model building code language and to develop additional code language that reflects changes needed.

A HUD-commissioned study has found that if builders comply with the Fair Housing Act during construction, their dwelling-unit costs rise by only about one-half of one percent. However, remodeling a building that has already been constructed can cost a great deal more.

Local governments use these "model" codes, developed by private organizations, as a starting point for adopting their own building and safety codes, taking into consideration needs particular to their location such as climate or proximity to earthquake fault lines. Building inspectors for these local governments issue construction and occupancy permits based on compliance with these codes.

As part of its continuing education and technical assistance to the building industry, HUD agreed to review existing model building codes to determine where they did not meet the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act. The House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations in 1999 also asked for a report. The Final Report sent to Congress this month and shared with the industry, advocates and the public also makes recommendations on where the codes could be changed to be consistent with the Act.

The Final Report of the HUD Review of Model Building Codes can be viewed on HUD's web site at

Organizations and individuals representing code officials, disability advocates, architects, home builders, the multi-family housing industry, and model codes have come out in support of HUD's Final Report (see attached quote sheet).

The Fair Housing Act, enacted in 1968, was amended in 1988 to outlaw housing discrimination against people with disabilities, among other things. In 1989, HUD issued its regulations implementing the Act's design and construction requirements to make sure that apartments and condominiums were accessible for people with disabilities, especially those who use wheelchairs. In March 1991, after consideration of extensive public comment from architects, developers, builders, persons with disabilities, and other interested groups, HUD published the "Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines," which set forth specific guidelines for designing dwelling units consistent with the Act.

The Fair Housing Act applies to all dwelling units in apartment buildings built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, which have an elevator and four or more units. If the building has four or more units but does not have an elevator the law applies to all ground floor units. The Act requires that:

  • Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities
  • Doors and hallways be wide enough for people in wheelchairs
  • Routes into and through the unit be accessible
  • Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls be accessible
  • Bathroom walls are reinforced to allow later installation of grab bars and
  • Kitchens and bathrooms are usable by people in wheelchairs.

In its final report, HUD reviewed the following private-sector codes and standards reflected in the Uniform Building Code, 1997 edition (UBC); the Standard Building Code, 1997 edition (SBC); the BOCA National Building Code, 1996 edition (BNBC); and, the International Building Code (IBC). HUD originally was asked to look at the IBC's 1997 draft code. Once the review was underway, the Department agreed to undertake a limited review of the proposed IBC 2000 when it became available during the review process.

Although HUD since 1989 has been providing education and technical assistance on the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act, it became clear that more guidance on the requirements would be useful. Many builders contend that they are only aware of their local building code requirements. Thus, by working to ensure that the local building code requirements are consistent with the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act will significantly increase the number of units that are properly constructed to be accessible to people with disabilities.

The Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status and national origin. The Act covers the sale, rental, financing and advertising of almost all housing in the nation. Fair housing investigations are conducted by HUD investigators, state and city agencies working with HUD, and private fair housing groups that receive HUD funds.

People who believe they've been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777.



Kenneth M. Schoonover, P.E., Vice President of Codes and Standards BOCA International, Inc. - "The statutory members of the International Code Council, BOCA, ICBO and SBCCI, are pleased that the final report is available because it enables us to identify revisions to the 2000 International Building Code (IBC) that are needed to make the IBC a safe harbor and to propose those revisions for inclusion in the IBC."

Dan Nickle, C.B.O., Chairman, International Code Council, Inc. - "ICC and its statutory members - BOCA, ICBO and SBCCI - commend the Department for recognizing the role of private-sector codes and standards to increase compliance with the Act. ICC is please that we are now able to identify revisions to the 2000 International Building Code (IBC)according to the final report, and welcome the Department's pledge to work with the model code organizations in reviewing and revising the code and having the IBC deemed a safe harbor in the near future. The substantial benefits of HUD's model code review will be realized over time when jurisdictions adopt and enforce codes that meet the requirements of the Fair Housing Act."

Jay Harris, Vice President of Property Management, National Multi Housing Council and National Apartment Association - "This technical review is a public benefit for disabled persons and design and construction professionals alike. HUD's formal opinion on the accessibility features already in the codes helps reduce the confusion associated with this issue - a tremendous contribution toward increasing the national supply of safe, affordable and accessible housing. NMHC/NAA now look forward to working with the Department on the next step - increasing HUD's outreach to the building community to further increase awareness of the Fair Housing Act's accessibility provisions."

Robert Mitchell, President, National Association of Home Builders and a home builder from Rockville, MD - "This is a significant step forward in the effort to guarantee that all apartments built in the future meet accessibility standards guaranteed under the Fair Housing Act Amendments," said Robert Mitchell, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). "Once the standards are incorporated by the model code organizations and adopted by local jurisdictions, builders will have a clear standard to follow to meet the federal law."

Brian Black, Director of Building Codes & Standards for the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association (EPVA) - "This isn't just an academic exercise in wordsmithing, it is a significant and valuable step toward coordinating the building code requirements enforced in states and municipalities with the civil rights protections of the Fair Housing Amendments Act. When builders mistakenly build to state codes that do not adequately reflect the Fair Housing Accessibility requirements, not only do our members lose, but so do builders and property owners who are faced with expensive court costs and difficult alterations to their apartments and condominiums."


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