Between 2018 and September 30, 2020, Atlanta Housing and its third-party property owners and management businesses failed to monitor its reasonable accommodation requests – residents requesting live-in assistance, grab bars, assistance animals, or accessible parking space, among other ADA needs — according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
HUD discovered a large number of legitimate requests were either unlawfully or unjustifiably delayed, lost, ignored, or denied. 15 requests were unfilled at one AH-owned property and 11 properties from third parties that receive AH funding, in violation of Section 504 and Title II of the ADA. The creation of a $2 million relief fund for Atlanta’s qualified renters whose requests for accommodations were denied was announced by HUD on November 22. A procedure for applying for reviews is being developed by AH for tenants. The fund will be in place until HUD determines that AH has complied with the settlement agreement’s terms.
Disabled people appear to be disproportionately affected by housing discrimination. A survey from the National Fair Housing Alliance states that in 2016, 55% of housing discrimination complaints were made due to a disability. In 2016, there were over 25,000 complaints submitted.
In January 2019, a woman contacted a broker at Realty Executives Boston West in Framingham about an apartment in Ashland Massachusetts for her adult son, who is disabled. Her son had a Section 8 voucher. When she asked if the property owner would rent to a tenant with a Section 8 voucher, the broker allegedly said the owner would not consider the tenant.
Making matters worse, the wait for a voucher can last several years. According to an analysis of HUD data done by The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, only two of the 50 largest housing agencies had average wait durations of less than a year for families who have made it off the waiting list; the longest have to wait times of up to eight years. Nationally, families waiting for vouchers have been on waitlists for more than 2.5 years on average.
Nationwide, accessible housing is different to find. In February 2020, Apartment List conducted a study utilizing data from the American Community Survey and the American Housing Survey. According to the study, just 9% of households with a disabled member had an accessible home. Furthermore, 6% of homes in the United States are accessible. More than 15% of households, however, include a physically disabled member.
In August of 2020, I moved out of my parents’ home. I reside in a rural community with few affordable housing options. In Massachusetts, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $2,442 as of November 2022. In Massachusetts, approximately 14,000 individuals were homeless in March 2022.
I was lucky enough to find a first-floor apartment through an old acquaintance. While it is not completely accessible, it serves its purpose for the time being. I was able to have a ramp installed, and I shower using a bath transfer system. I can move around freely with my power wheelchair and walker, plus I don’t have carpets, so I can move around more easily. I’d like to renovate the bathroom in the future so I can have a roll-in shower, but the apartment will work just fine for the time being.
Unfortunately, the lack of accessible housing means many disabled people are homeless. In January 2017, 24% of homeless people, or around 87,000 people, were disabled and chronically homeless. Individuals experiencing chronic homelessness have been homeless for at least a year or have been homeless at least four times in the previous three years, totaling twelve months.
55-year-old Margret Davis is one of them. She receives SSI, but can’t find a place to live. She is attempting to live off $50 and $150 in SNAP benefits while finding a place to live. The website Zumper, tracking rental prices since 2014, says the average apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Davis lives, now rents for $1,500 per month. Rent is 70% higher than it was over a decade ago.
Disabled people face discrimination daily. Everyone deserves to have a safe, clean, place to live. People with disabilities have the right to live in an environment that meets their needs. Accessible housing enables disabled people to achieve greater independence.
Acosta, Sonya, and Erik Gartland. “Families Wait Years for Housing Vouchers Due to Inadequate Funding.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 22 July 2021, https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/families-wait-years-for-housing-vouchers-due-to-inadequate-funding.
Bedford, Tori. “’We Need to Change the System.’ Overcrowded Homeless Shelters Ask State to Double Its Budget.” WGBH, PBS, 2 Mar. 2022, https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2022/03/02/we-need-to-change-the-system-overcrowded-homeless-shelters-ask-state-to-double-its-budget.
Clasen-Kelly, Fred. “High Rents Outpace Federal Disability Payments, Leaving Many Homeless.” NPR, NPR, 15 Sept. 2022, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/09/15/1121848289/social-security-disability-inflation-poverty.
Diament, Michelle. “Most Housing Discrimination Complaints Related to Disabilities.” Disability Scoop, Disability Scoop, 21 Apr. 2017, https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2017/04/21/most-housing-discrimination/23608/.
Nobles, Wilborn. “Atlanta Housing Authority Violated Federal Disability Law, HUD Reports.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cox Media Group, 8 Dec. 2022, https://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta-news/atlanta-housing-authority-violated-federal-disability-law-hud-reports/7GOM5G3AUVHULDN37SEOUYZDQU/.
Sorrentino, Sierra. “AG’s Office Settles Housing Discrimination Cases in Wellesley, Ashland.” MetroWest Daily News, GateHouse Media, 17 Apr. 2022, https://www.metrowestdailynews.com/story/news/2022/04/17/ashland-wellesley-housing-discrimination-cases-settled-ags-office/7306630001/.
Woods, Eileen. “An in-Depth Look at the Massachusetts Rental Market: December Edition.” Boston.com, The Boston Globe, 1 Dec. 2022, https://www.boston.com/real-estate/renting/2022/12/01/breakdown-massachusetts-rental-market-december/.
Warnock, Rob. “How Accessible Is the Housing Market?” Apartment List , Apartment List, 19 February, 2020, http://www.apartmentlist.com/research/how-accessible-is-the-housing-market.