From the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), April 14, 2015
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has reached two Voluntary Compliance Agreements (VCAs) with the Housing Authority of Independence (HAI), Missouri, resolving HUD findings which showed that the agency failed to provide persons with disabilities and individuals with limited English proficiency meaningful access to its HUD-funded housing programs.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. In addition, Title VI of the Civil Right Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.
“Today’s agreements demonstrate the Department’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that eligible families have equal access to HUD-funded housing programs, regardless of whether they have a physical disability or don’t speak English well,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to work with public housing authorities to help them meet their obligation to comply with federal laws.”
HAI owns and operates 522 public housing units and administers more than 1,600 Housing Choice Vouchers.
The two agreements are the result of a HUD compliance review of the housing authority’s operations, which found that the agency was not fulfilling its obligation to provide access to services for persons with disabilities and individuals with limited English proficiency, as required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In particular, HUD’s review found that HAI dwelling units, common areas and other HAI facilities were inaccessible to person with disabilities. HUD’s review also found that HAI made improper inquiries of people concerning the nature and severity of their disabilities and did not adequately provide reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities.
Under the terms of the agreements with HUD, HAI will submit a corrective plan to make all designated accessible units and common areas compliant with accessibility requirements, including adjusting counter heights, making parking accessible, adjusting mailboxes, adding grab bars, and making other modifications to units and properties. HAI is required to complete all of the modifications within two years. HAI will also revise its policies to cease illegal inquiries into the nature of a person’s disability.
In addition, HAI will analyze and assess the needs of its eligible limited English proficient population to ensure that they have reasonable access to all programs and activities. The agency will then prepare and submit to HUD a Language Assistance Plan that will include written policies and procedures. After completing its analysis, HAI will display a sign in the language of the groups served near each of the agency’s customer service areas. The signs will describe the scope of language services that the housing authority offers at that location and inform people that HAI provides language services for individuals with limited English proficiency at no cost.
All current employees will also receive training on the housing authority’s duties under the agreements, as well as HAI’s Fair Housing Act obligations.
Persons who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple devices, such as iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, as well as Android devices.