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Housing Conference 2000

Montana Fair Housing board members and staff would like to thank the following speakers who donated their time and expertise toward furthering fair housing in the state of Montana and making our conference this year the most successful one yet!

Jim Arestad, Adult Case Management, Kalispell

Chris Brancart, Attorney at Law, California

Pete Burkett, Sr. Property Mgr. Collins Management

Diane Conradi, Attorney at Law, MT Legal Services, Kalispell

John Eubanks, HUB Director OFEO, HUD, Denver

Bruno Friia, Lambros Property Management, Missoula

Joseph Garcia, Representative for Secretary Cuomo, HUD

Pat Haffey, Commissioner, MT Dept. of Labor & Industry

Oweta Josleyn, Fair Housing Educator, Arizona

Jerry Keck, Administrator, MT Dept. of Labor and Industry

Tim Kelly, Attorney at Law, Emigrant

Beth Kerwin, Adult Case Management, Kalispell

Ken Kolvig, Attorney at Law, Kalispell

Thomas Orr, Attorney at Law, Missoula

John Relman, Attorney at Law, Washington D.C.

Susan Selbach, MD, Missoula

Klaus Sitte, Deputy Director, MT Legal Services

Ben Tintinger, AI Architect, Helena

Next year’s conference, Housing Conference 2001, has been tentatively scheduled to be held in Great Falls, beginning at noon on April 11th and ending at noon on April 13th. If you have any suggestions for agenda items, please contact Pam at 542-2611 or 800-929-2611.

 

What’s new in fair housing . . .

PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY MUST MAKE MORE HOUSING ACCESSIBLE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

Press Release dated April 17, 2000

Philadelphia, PA – In a landmark decision that is likely to have a significant impact on public housing authorities across the country, the federal district court in Philadelphia has issued the first ruling in the country finding that federal law requires that 5 percent of a public housing agency’s dwelling units must be made accessible to people with mobility impairments.

The court found that the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) failed in its duty to make adequate numbers of housing units accessible to people with mobility disabilities when it was spending millions of dollars essentially rebuilding hundreds of units over the past few years.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority is the largest provider of public housing in Pennsylvania. It provides two basic types of dwelling units: "conventional" and "scattered site." In Philadelphia there are nearly 7,000 scattered site public housing units. Of these 7000 units, only 22 units currently are accessible to people with mobility impairments, whereas the 5 percent minimum under federal law would require 350 units. "We have people in wheelchairs living in inaccessible third floor apartments and people who use walkers having to crawl up and down stairs," said Stephen F. Gold, counsel for plaintiffs ADAPT and Liberty Resources. "With this ruling, we will now finally get moving to reach the minimum number of accessible units available to people who desperately need them," Gold said.

The decision was entered late Friday afternoon in a lawsuit filed by ADAPT of Philadelphia and Liberty Resources, Inc., the Philadelphia Center for Independent Living, against the Philadelphia Housing Authority. The lawsuit charged [the] PHA with violating federal law in failing to make a sufficient number of scattered site housing units accessible to people with mobility impairments.

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as well as under implementing regulations put forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, public housing authorities must make at least 5% of dwelling units in a housing project accessible to persons with mobility impairments. When a housing authority undertakes substantial alterations of existing dwelling units in a housing project (alterations that cost more than 75% of the replacement cost of the unit), it must make each substantially altered unit accessible until 5% of the total dwelling units in that housing project are accessible.

Judge Harvey Bartle III of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled Friday afternoon that [the] PHA had failed in its duty to make scattered site housing accessible to people with mobility disabilities. Judge Bartle found that any units [the] PHA substantially altered within an existing housing project should have been made accessible until 5% of the total dwelling units in that project were accessible. [The] PHA spent millions of dollars to substantially alter hundreds of scattered site units in the past few years, but made only 22 units accessible.

Nearly 800 of the city’s 7,000 scattered site units were renovated in recent years, with the PHA spending up to $150,000 per unit. These major renovations often involved gut renovations of the existing units, including entirely new interiors, roofs, front steps, windows, and plumbing and electrical systems. Notably, the court found that [the] PHA could have made more of these units accessible without significantly increasing the overall cost of the renovations.

This decisions is likely to have a significant impact on public housing across the country. "Throughout the country, there are housing authorities that have not reached the 5 percent minimum. Although many of these authorities substantially renovated and altered a significant number of public housing units in the 1990’s, they failed to make an appropriate number of them accessible to people with physical disabilities. This decision would be a wake-up call both to the housing authorities and to the housing and disabilities advocates. Inaccessible, low-income housing is a significant problem throughout the country," Gold said.

For more information contact Steven Gold, Esquire or Marinda van Dalen, Esquire (215) 627-7100, The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

 

FEDERAL JURY AWARDS $403,000.00 TO SINGLE MOM IN FAIR HOUSING CASE

News Release Dated April 17, 2000

A federal jury awarded Cynthia Szwast, 29, of Warren, Michigan, compensatory damages of $3,000.00 and $400,000.00 in punitive damages against a Warren landlord, Kratt and Associates, located at the Carlton Apartments in Warren, Michigan on Monday morning.

The trial held before Judge John Feikens in federal district court in Detroit involved a violation of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, which prohibits discrimination against families with children.

Cynthia Szwast, the mother of two children, Matthew, 8 and Amber 4, attempted to rent a two bedroom unit for herself and her children from the Carlton Apartments in Warren, Michingan. In her familial status discrimination suit filed in U.S. District Court, she stated that when she inquired, via telephone, about an advertised unit she was advised that the unit was on the second floor and that the manager would not rent an apartment on the second floor to anyone with children.

Sterling Heights attorney, Regina L. Meo, of counsel, at Langton & Associates, P.C. represented the Plaintiff and her children in the case. Ms. Meo commented that this verdict will help enforce the Fair Housing Laws.

The Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit investigates complaints of fair housing discrimination and refers cases to private attorneys such as Ms. Meo. Clifford C. Schrupp is the Director of the Fair Housing Center and Michael Olshan, J.D., is its Legal Coordinator. Marvin Thomas, Coordinator of Testing and Investigation at the Center, and five testers testified at trial regarding findings that families with children were treated differently at the Carlton Apartments.

For more information contact Regina Meo, P.C. at (810) 268-8200, ext. 3126.

 

Housing Opportunities Made Equal

versus

Nationwide Insurance

(RICHMOND, Va., April 24, 2000) -- Faced with the uncertainty of an impending Virginia Supreme Court decision, Nationwide Insurance and a Virginia fair housing organization have settled their longstanding race discrimination lawsuit for at least $17.5 million.

The settlement also calls for Nationwide to enter into a contract with the National Fair Housing Alliance for consulting, training and "self-evaluation" to make sure Nationwide's products are reaching African-American neighborhoods across the country.
Housing Opportunities Made Equal ("HOME") of Richmond, the plaintiff in the case, will use the settlement money to further its programs, which include counseling about housing discrimination, ownership and rental issues and providing financial assistance to homeowners for repairs.
"I am particularly pleased that Nationwide and HOME now will work together on a common agenda to benefit current and future homeowners, especially those in urban areas," said Galen R. Barnes, Nationwide's president and chief operating officer.

The parties filed a short document with the Virginia Supreme Court informing the court that the parties had reached an agreement and asking for dismissal, which the court granted. The detailed written agreement among the parties will not be made public, Barnes said.

The settlement stems from a suit HOME filed against Nationwide in 1996. After a trial in October 1998, a jury awarded HOME $500,000 in compensatory damages and $100 million to punish Nationwide for its conduct.

In January, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned the jury verdict, ruling that HOME lacked "standing," or the right to sue Nationwide for its conduct. But last month, the court threw out that ruling and agreed to reconsider its decision.
Lawyers had been scheduled to make oral arguments before the court on April 20.

At trial, HOME presented the results of paired undercover tests HOME had conducted of Nationwide agents. In 13 of 15 tests, African-American testers inquiring about insuring homes in African-American neighborhoods were treated less favorably than white testers asking about homes in white neighborhoods.

HOME also presented Nationwide's own marketing materials, which indicated that the company sought to characterize zip codes within Virginia based on, among other factors, their racial makeup. The zip codes labeled "Remaining Diverse" were considered undesirable markets for selling homeowner's insurance.

The award, which is no longer in force, remains the largest in a housing discrimination case. Nationwide has been sued more than any other insurer for housing discrimination.

Barnes said the parties had been discussing possibilities for settlement since June 1999. He would not comment on whether Nationwide would have entered into the "partnership" with HOME and NFHA if the Virginia court's original decision to overturn the huge jury award were still in place. He also would not say whether Nationwide still takes the position that HOME never had the legal right to sue the company.

"Our view is to focus on the future," Barnes said.

 

HUD ANNOUNCES RECOMMENDED REVISIONS TO MODEL BUILDING CODES

Announcement Dated March 30, 2000

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 www.hud.gov/fhe/modelcodes/.

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.

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.

 

HUD disclaimer notice: The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant awarded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The authors and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication.

Housing Conference 2000

Montana Fair Housing board members and staff would like to thank the following speakers who donated their time and expertise toward furthering fair housing in the state of Montana and making our conference this year the most successful one yet!

Jim Arestad, Adult Case Management, Kalispell

Chris Brancart, Attorney at Law, California

Pete Burkett, Sr. Property Mgr. Collins Management

Diane Conradi, Attorney at Law, MT Legal Services, Kalispell

John Eubanks, HUB Director OFEO, HUD, Denver

Bruno Friia, Lambros Property Management, Missoula

Joseph Garcia, Representative for Secretary Cuomo, HUD

Pat Haffey, Commissioner, MT Dept. of Labor & Industry

Oweta Josleyn, Fair Housing Educator, Arizona

Jerry Keck, Administrator, MT Dept. of Labor and Industry

Tim Kelly, Attorney at Law, Emigrant

Beth Kerwin, Adult Case Management, Kalispell

Ken Kolvig, Attorney at Law, Kalispell

Thomas Orr, Attorney at Law, Missoula

John Relman, Attorney at Law, Washington D.C.

Susan Selbach, MD, Missoula

Klaus Sitte, Deputy Director, MT Legal Services

Ben Tintinger, AI Architect, Helena

Next year’s conference, Housing Conference 2001, has been tentatively scheduled to be held in Great Falls, beginning at noon on April 11th and ending at noon on April 13th. If you have any suggestions for agenda items, please contact Pam at 542-2611 or 800-929-2611.

 

What’s new in fair housing . . .

PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY MUST MAKE MORE HOUSING ACCESSIBLE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

Press Release dated April 17, 2000

Philadelphia, PA – In a landmark decision that is likely to have a significant impact on public housing authorities across the country, the federal district court in Philadelphia has issued the first ruling in the country finding that federal law requires that 5 percent of a public housing agency’s dwelling units must be made accessible to people with mobility impairments.

The court found that the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) failed in its duty to make adequate numbers of housing units accessible to people with mobility disabilities when it was spending millions of dollars essentially rebuilding hundreds of units over the past few years.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority is the largest provider of public housing in Pennsylvania. It provides two basic types of dwelling units: "conventional" and "scattered site." In Philadelphia there are nearly 7,000 scattered site public housing units. Of these 7000 units, only 22 units currently are accessible to people with mobility impairments, whereas the 5 percent minimum under federal law would require 350 units. "We have people in wheelchairs living in inaccessible third floor apartments and people who use walkers having to crawl up and down stairs," said Stephen F. Gold, counsel for plaintiffs ADAPT and Liberty Resources. "With this ruling, we will now finally get moving to reach the minimum number of accessible units available to people who desperately need them," Gold said.

The decision was entered late Friday afternoon in a lawsuit filed by ADAPT of Philadelphia and Liberty Resources, Inc., the Philadelphia Center for Independent Living, against the Philadelphia Housing Authority. The lawsuit charged [the] PHA with violating federal law in failing to make a sufficient number of scattered site housing units accessible to people with mobility impairments.

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as well as under implementing regulations put forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, public housing authorities must make at least 5% of dwelling units in a housing project accessible to persons with mobility impairments. When a housing authority undertakes substantial alterations of existing dwelling units in a housing project (alterations that cost more than 75% of the replacement cost of the unit), it must make each substantially altered unit accessible until 5% of the total dwelling units in that housing project are accessible.

Judge Harvey Bartle III of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled Friday afternoon that [the] PHA had failed in its duty to make scattered site housing accessible to people with mobility disabilities. Judge Bartle found that any units [the] PHA substantially altered within an existing housing project should have been made accessible until 5% of the total dwelling units in that project were accessible. [The] PHA spent millions of dollars to substantially alter hundreds of scattered site units in the past few years, but made only 22 units accessible.

Nearly 800 of the city’s 7,000 scattered site units were renovated in recent years, with the PHA spending up to $150,000 per unit. These major renovations often involved gut renovations of the existing units, including entirely new interiors, roofs, front steps, windows, and plumbing and electrical systems. Notably, the court found that [the] PHA could have made more of these units accessible without significantly increasing the overall cost of the renovations.

This decisions is likely to have a significant impact on public housing across the country. "Throughout the country, there are housing authorities that have not reached the 5 percent minimum. Although many of these authorities substantially renovated and altered a significant number of public housing units in the 1990’s, they failed to make an appropriate number of them accessible to people with physical disabilities. This decision would be a wake-up call both to the housing authorities and to the housing and disabilities advocates. Inaccessible, low-income housing is a significant problem throughout the country," Gold said.

For more information contact Steven Gold, Esquire or Marinda van Dalen, Esquire (215) 627-7100, The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

 

FEDERAL JURY AWARDS $403,000.00 TO SINGLE MOM IN FAIR HOUSING CASE

News Release Dated April 17, 2000

A federal jury awarded Cynthia Szwast, 29, of Warren, Michigan, compensatory damages of $3,000.00 and $400,000.00 in punitive damages against a Warren landlord, Kratt and Associates, located at the Carlton Apartments in Warren, Michigan on Monday morning.

The trial held before Judge John Feikens in federal district court in Detroit involved a violation of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, which prohibits discrimination against families with children.

Cynthia Szwast, the mother of two children, Matthew, 8 and Amber 4, attempted to rent a two bedroom unit for herself and her children from the Carlton Apartments in Warren, Michingan. In her familial status discrimination suit filed in U.S. District Court, she stated that when she inquired, via telephone, about an advertised unit she was advised that the unit was on the second floor and that the manager would not rent an apartment on the second floor to anyone with children.

Sterling Heights attorney, Regina L. Meo, of counsel, at Langton & Associates, P.C. represented the Plaintiff and her children in the case. Ms. Meo commented that this verdict will help enforce the Fair Housing Laws.

The Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit investigates complaints of fair housing discrimination and refers cases to private attorneys such as Ms. Meo. Clifford C. Schrupp is the Director of the Fair Housing Center and Michael Olshan, J.D., is its Legal Coordinator. Marvin Thomas, Coordinator of Testing and Investigation at the Center, and five testers testified at trial regarding findings that families with children were treated differently at the Carlton Apartments.

For more information contact Regina Meo, P.C. at (810) 268-8200, ext. 3126.

 

Housing Opportunities Made Equal

versus

Nationwide Insurance

(RICHMOND, Va., April 24, 2000) -- Faced with the uncertainty of an impending Virginia Supreme Court decision, Nationwide Insurance and a Virginia fair housing organization have settled their longstanding race discrimination lawsuit for at least $17.5 million.

The settlement also calls for Nationwide to enter into a contract with the National Fair Housing Alliance for consulting, training and "self-evaluation" to make sure Nationwide's products are reaching African-American neighborhoods across the country.
Housing Opportunities Made Equal ("HOME") of Richmond, the plaintiff in the case, will use the settlement money to further its programs, which include counseling about housing discrimination, ownership and rental issues and providing financial assistance to homeowners for repairs.
"I am particularly pleased that Nationwide and HOME now will work together on a common agenda to benefit current and future homeowners, especially those in urban areas," said Galen R. Barnes, Nationwide's president and chief operating officer.

The parties filed a short document with the Virginia Supreme Court informing the court that the parties had reached an agreement and asking for dismissal, which the court granted. The detailed written agreement among the parties will not be made public, Barnes said.

The settlement stems from a suit HOME filed against Nationwide in 1996. After a trial in October 1998, a jury awarded HOME $500,000 in compensatory damages and $100 million to punish Nationwide for its conduct.

In January, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned the jury verdict, ruling that HOME lacked "standing," or the right to sue Nationwide for its conduct. But last month, the court threw out that ruling and agreed to reconsider its decision.
Lawyers had been scheduled to make oral arguments before the court on April 20.

At trial, HOME presented the results of paired undercover tests HOME had conducted of Nationwide agents. In 13 of 15 tests, African-American testers inquiring about insuring homes in African-American neighborhoods were treated less favorably than white testers asking about homes in white neighborhoods.

HOME also presented Nationwide's own marketing materials, which indicated that the company sought to characterize zip codes within Virginia based on, among other factors, their racial makeup. The zip codes labeled "Remaining Diverse" were considered undesirable markets for selling homeowner's insurance.

The award, which is no longer in force, remains the largest in a housing discrimination case. Nationwide has been sued more than any other insurer for housing discrimination.

Barnes said the parties had been discussing possibilities for settlement since June 1999. He would not comment on whether Nationwide would have entered into the "partnership" with HOME and NFHA if the Virginia court's original decision to overturn the huge jury award were still in place. He also would not say whether Nationwide still takes the position that HOME never had the legal right to sue the company.

"Our view is to focus on the future," Barnes said.

 

HUD ANNOUNCES RECOMMENDED REVISIONS TO MODEL BUILDING CODES

Announcement Dated March 30, 2000

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 www.hud.gov/fhe/modelcodes/.

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.

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.

 

HUD disclaimer notice: The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant awarded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The authors and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication.

 

Contact Montana Fair Housing at inquiry@montanafairhousing.org
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