September 29, 2004
BUSH ADMINISTRATION INCREASING PUBLIC HOUSING OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Housing Authority of Baltimore City must create 2,963 housing opportunities
for people with disabilities
WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Carolyn Peoples today announced the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) has agreed to a consent decree, committing to make an additional 1,850 new housing opportunities available for non-elderly people with disabilities. Under the terms of the consent decree, the housing authority must also make 755 public housing units accessible to people with mobility impairments and 283 additional units accessible to people who are vision or hearing impaired.
The consent decree is the result of joint enforcement activities by the Department
of Housing and Urban Development and the United States Department of Justice.
In October 2002, after HUD's efforts to negotiate a voluntary compliance agreement
with HABC were unsuccessful, HUD referred this matter to the United States Department
of Justice (DOJ) for litigation. Pursuant to HUD's referral, DOJ worked with
HABC and the Maryland Disability Law Center (MDLC) to reach the terms of this
On January 22, 2002, MDLC filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of several Baltimore residents that alleged that the HABC had engaged in discrimination against persons with disabilities in the administration of its housing programs. Specifically, the class action complaint alleged that the housing authority violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to transfer persons with disabilities residing in public housing into accessible housing units, failing to modify housing to make it accessible for persons with disabilities and, refusing to permit persons with disabilities to apply for housing for which they were eligible.
"It is simply unacceptable that anybody should be denied housing that
is suitable for their needs at our nation's housing authorities," said
Peoples. "This consent decree should reinforce to others that HUD and DOJ
will not allow people with disabilities to be excluded from communities due
to lack of accessible housing."
Under the terms of the Consent Decree, HABC must increase housing opportunities for persons with disabilities and must make the following modifications:
- Make the common areas in HABC housing developments more accessible for
persons with physical disabilities. HABC must also hire an architect to inspect
common areas such as management offices, laundry rooms, recreational facilities
and public restrooms to ensure they are accessible.
- Eliminate barriers for persons with disabilities at HABC's administrative
offices located at 300 Cathedral Street, 417 East Fayette Street and 312 North
Martin Luther King Boulevard.
- Make any necessary modifications to ensure that all public housing developments
that were constructed after 1991 are in compliance with Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Federal Fair Housing Act.
- Administer a fund of $500,000 (with monies to be provided by the City of
Baltimore) to provide financial assistance to persons with physical disabilities
who must make physical modifications to privately owned apartments rented
with Section 8 money.
- Publicize HABCs Reasonable Accommodations Policy and implement procedures
to keep information about participants' and applicants' disabilities confidential.
- Establish a $1,000,000 settlement fund to compensate victims of its discriminatory
- Pay a total of $39,000 in money damages to three (3) individuals with disabilities
who were part of the private class action lawsuit filed against HABC in January
- Pay $300,000 in attorneys' fees to the Maryland Disability Law Center.
Peoples commended the Department of Justice for following up on the case and said the two agencies would continue to work diligently to continually right injustices.
Today's action forcing the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to open its doors for people with disabilities follows other voluntary compliance agreements executed between HUD and public housing authorities since 2001. The D.C. Housing Authority, Puerto Rico Public Housing Administration and Boston Housing Authority have also entered voluntary compliance agreements with HUD to ensure increased housing opportunities for people with disabilities.
Anyone who believes they have experienced housing discrimination is asked to call HUD's Housing Discrimination Hotline at 1-800-669-9777.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing minority homeownership, creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans, supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws.