FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2023
Contact: Izzy Woodruff │ IWoodruff@nationalfairhousing.org
National Fair Housing Alliance and Local Fair Housing Organizations Submit Comment Letter Urging HUD to Strengthen Section 504 Regulations
Washington, D.C. — The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and many local fair housing centers throughout the country have come together to submit a comment letter in response to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s call for public comment and recommendations regarding modernizing regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was a landmark piece of legislation designed to prohibit discrimination based on disability in federally funded programs and activities, including housing. However, HUD was the last executive agency to implement Section 504 regulations in 1988. As stated in the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), the 1988 regulations have not been meaningfully updated in the last 35 years.
HUD has continued to find discrimination on the basis of disability in HUD-assisted programs and activities, as well as an ongoing need for affordable, accessible, and integrated housing opportunities for individuals with disabilities who are eligible for the programs and activities administered by recipients of federal financial assistance from HUD.https://www.hud.gov/504
In the joint comment letter, the signatories applaud HUD for recognizing the need to modernize these regulations.
“Since the Rehabilitation Act’s passing, developments in case law under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA) have changed the landscape of disability rights advocacy, and these developments should be codified and enforced through the new final rule,” said Morgan Williams, NFHA’s General Counsel.
The data from the 2021 American Community Survey (ACS) highlights the urgency of the matter. The data shows an estimated 42.5 million individuals, constituting 13 percent of the civilian noninstitutionalized population, living with disabilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 27 percent of adults in the United States live with some type of disability, and that one in six children have one or more developmental disabilities or delays.
NFHA urges HUD to further collaborate with fair housing organizations, disability rights advocates, and other stakeholders to ensure that the final rule comprehensively addresses the unique challenges faced by individuals with disabilities.
NFHA and the undersigned fair housing organizations outline five core areas of focus in their comment letter:
1. Inclusivity and Integration: The organizations stress the need for regulations that promote inclusivity and enable individuals with disabilities to live in the most integrated settings possible for each individual.
2. Increasing Accessible Housing: Addressing the growing number of individuals living with disabilities, the comment letter urges HUD to enhance and diversify the availability of accessible housing throughout the country.
3. Modernization and Harmonization: NFHA and its partners propose modernizing and harmonizing HUD’s Section 504 regulations to align with current law and well-established principles, streamlining enforcement and compliance.
4. Removing Unnecessary Barriers: The coalition calls for the elimination of unnecessary barriers that hinder individuals with disabilities from obtaining accessible housing.
5. Strong Enforcement Mechanisms: Recognizing the importance of robust enforcement, the organizations advocate for efficient mechanisms to ensure compliance with HUD’s Section 504 regulations.
Furthermore, the comment letter provides detailed recommendations for strengthening and clarifying the regulations in specific areas, including reasonable accommodations, auxiliary aids and services, accessibility in shared areas, housing choice vouchers, and disaster recovery.
“The history of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act includes more than six decades of disability advocates consistently pressing to have their rights recognized, codified, and enforced…The ANPRM was a significant opportunity for advocates and stakeholders to help shape regulations that will impact the lives of millions,” Williams added.
By promoting accessible housing, removing discriminatory barriers, and enforcing Section 504 regulations effectively, HUD has the opportunity to create a more just and equitable society, ensuring that individuals with disabilities can fully participate in their communities and lead fulfilling lives. The public comment period closed on July 24, 2023, and NFHA and its member organizations will continue to monitor the progress of the situation. Click here to read the letter.
NFHA was assisted with research and drafting on this matter by Relman Colfax PLLC, a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights law firm, including the assistance of attorney Sara Pratt.
The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) is the country’s only national civil rights organization dedicated solely to eliminating all forms of housing and lending discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities for all people. As the trade association for over 170 fair housing and justice-centered organizations and individuals throughout the U.S. and its territories, NFHA works to dismantle longstanding barriers to equity and build diverse, inclusive, well-resourced communities.