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Legislation and the Law

Legislation and Rights


The following lists major legislation enacted by the federal government in regard to housing for people with disabilities.

The Rehabilitation Act (29 United States Code, Section 791)

The Rehabilitation Act is a far reaching piece of legislation with many different sections dealing with disabled issues. The act prohibits discrimination based on disability for programs receiving Federal funding, in employment, and by Federal contractors. The same standard set forth in the ADA is used to define discrimination by the Rehabilitation Act. There are several sections that explicitly address disabled issues.

Section 504 provides guarantees for qualified disabled individuals in hiring practices. The section states no qualified disabled individual can be excluded from or denied benefits from any Federal agency or program. To meet this requirement, each agency has its own requirements to comply with Section 504. These requirements include accommodations for disabled employees, accessibility standards for newly constructed buildings, and communication standards for disabled workers.

The purpose of the Rehabilitation Act is to prevent discrimination towards disabled individuals by the Federal government. The act covers all actions by the federal government, from their hiring and employment practices, to the delivery of services and the technology they employ. Preventing discrimination by the Federal government is very important because it is the major service provider for individuals with disabilities. If individuals with disabilities cannot receive services from the Federal government, they are unlikely to receive services anywhere else. In many cases, Federal aid is crucial to the well being of many individuals with disabilities. Discrimination must be eliminated to ensure everyone receives their benefits.

In 1973, The Rehabilitation Act, Section 504 included the removal of all barriers and impediments which impact people with disabilities' access to affordable housing programs. Reasonable accommodation and modification provisions of both Section 504 and the Fair Housing Act can empower people with disabilities to seek the protections granted by federal laws and regulations. Unfortunately, the disabled community is often unaware of the laws and how to seek protection. Training and assistance for people with disabilities is an important obligation of (HUD) the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act, as it now exists after being amended with the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, makes housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, and national origin illegal. The law extends this to private housing, housing receiving federal assistance, and any form of state and local housing. Discrimination based on a disability in any aspect of housing, from renting, buying, or facilities is a violation of the law.

The law also requires owners of housing facilities to make exceptions to their policies to allow individuals with disabilities the same opportunities to occupy housing that is enjoyed by the general population. This includes access to the facility and making common use spaces accessible to disabled tenants. The law also requires to make multi-family residential structures with four or more units, built for first occupancy after March 13 1991, accessible to persons with disabilities.

On December 1, 2000, HUD published the directive of the Community Planning and Development Formula Program: Assisting Persons With Disabilities-Recipeints" Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. In this directive, each "State and local government that is a recipient of HUD formula grant funds through the Community Development Block Grant Program, HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS Program or the Emergency Shelter Grant Program must submit a complete Consolidated Plan that assesses its priority housing and homeless needs, including the needs of persons with disabilities, and establishes a strategic plan for addressing these needs. (In this notice, the term "jurisdictions" (or "jurisdiction") refers to States and local governments that are recipients of this funding.)"

Recommended actions of this directive are:

  1. Jurisdictions that receive funds covered by the Consolidated Plan must outreach to ensure that persons with disabilities are consulted and help in the jurisdictions' analysis of needs and plans. HUD Offices and their Internet site can give information on outreach.
  2. "HUD in its review of Annual Action Plan submissions and during on-site reviews, will consider whether jurisdictions are giving appropriate attention in their Action Plans to compliance with the accessibility requirements of the Act by both private and public housing providers."
  3. This should include the community's adoption of a building code that satisfies the accessibility requirements as well as removal of any impediments to fair housing (see H.Rep. 106-674.)
  4. Jurisdictions should inform builders and architects "as early as possible in the project design phase, but certainly no later than the issuance of a building permit, of the need to comply with the accessibility requirements of the Act."

Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act

In 1987, Congress enacted the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. This legislation (now known as the McKinney/Vento Homeless Assistance Act) created three U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Programs. These programs were to develop permanent housing for homeless individuals and families with disabilities. The Shelter Plus Care program (S+C), the Supportive Housing Program (SHP) and Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy Program (Section 8 SRO).

In 1994, HUD began their Continuum of Care program which allowed the Homeless Assistance funding to be directed toward transitional housing and supportive service projects rather than toward expanding permanent housing for people with disabilities. Continuum of Care was intended to help homeless service providers provide more flexibility to implement HUD Homeless Assistance programs to help at the local level.

However, in 1999, Congress began to require that HUD spend 30% of the MCKinney/Vento Homeless Assistance funding on permanent housing. The result has been, in 2000, every new and existing permanent housing application eligible for HUD was funded. Applications for Continuum of Care transitional housing or supportive services, however, were not all funded. This left many service providers wondering how to deal with cut backs. In "Permanent Housing and HUD's Continuum of Care" by Emily Miller, Ann O'Hara and Marie Herb, the article Opening Doors "summarizes ways to use HUD Homeless Assistance programs to create and sustain permanent housing for homeless people with disabilities."

American Home Ownership and Economic Opportunity Act

In response to the housing situation, the American Home Ownership and Economic Opportunity Act of 2000, H.R. 5640 became public law number :106-569, December 27, 2000.

Under Sec. 302, Pilot Program for Homeownership Assistance for Disabled Families, the law states, "in general - a public housing agency (PHA) providing tenant-based assistance on behalf of an eligible family under section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937... may provide assistance for a disabled family that purchases a dwelling unit (including a dwelling unit under a lease-purchase agreement) that will be owned by one or more members of the disabled family and will be occupied by the disabled family." ...For eligibility, see this law. This legislation has recently made buying a home a possible housing choice for people with disabilities.

In addition, on October 12, 2000, HUD's new Section 8 Homeownership Program became effective. This new program has made it possible for people with disabilities to include home ownership as an affordable, accessible housing choice by allowing people with disabilities and their families to apply their monthly voucher used in the past for rent, instead towards the monthly payment of a home. However, the local Public Housing Authority (PHA) must choose to participate in the Homeownership Program.

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