Monday, April 4, 2011

Extenuating Circumstances When Screening Applicants with Disabilities

by Steve Gold

HUD states "it has recently come to the attention" of HUD that people with disabilities"face additional challenges during screening procedures [for public housing and housing choice vouchers] due to poor credit histories often exacerbated by outstanding medical costs related to their disability."

Disability advocates have been aware of this for many years so we're  delighted that HUD also now knows about it.

HUD's letter reminds PHAs that "discretion can and should be applied when  determining admissions and occupancy policies."  It further states that  HUD "encourages PHAs to consider extenuating circumstances when screening  applicants with disabilities."

While HUD's "reminder" is very welcomed, disability advocates should  remember that under the disability laws b 504, Fair Housing Act, and ADA,reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications of policies are  mandatory. The failure to consider the above "extenuating circumstances"  as a basis for a   reasonable accommodation  for a person with a disability   is a   civil rights violation!  A policy that blocks such accommodation is   also a violation.

The "poor credit history" is only one barrier.   Other barriers have also   prevented   people with disabilities   from receiving federal   housing benefits  - past criminal histories, especially pre-disability; needed extra rooms   for   durable medical equipment   or for live-in personal assistants;   mandatory inclusion of costs for meals in 202/811s.  We strongly recommend   that the reasonable accommodation route be used for all of these barriers.

While the above HUD memo was written by an   Assistant Secretary   for  Public Housing, the same     proscriptions apply to all federally funded  housing and to other housing subject to the Fair Housing Act.

Steve Gold, The Disability Odyssey continues

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