The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced an agreement with Los Angeles Friday to resolve a longstanding dispute over access for the disabled at city affordable housing projects
The agreement is expected to free up millions of dollars in federal funding for public housing in the city.
“As a result of this settlement, thousands of individuals with disabilities, including those experiencing homelessness in the city of Los Angeles, will have equal access to affordable housing and access to cutting-edge features that will enable them to live independently,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “I’m pleased we can now turn a page and begin the real work of providing affordable housing to the people who need it most and have gone without it for too long.”
The settlement enables Los Angeles to again receive funding under the federal Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnerships programs. HUD recently notified the city it was withholding about $80 million in funding due to what it termed unlawful discrimination against people with disabilities in its affordable housing program.
HUD originally put Los Angeles on notice in 2012 for what it called “widespread” violations at subsidized housing units. In April, the department issued a letter with further findings, which included a lack of policy and monitoring regarding accessibility.
“When governments put aside differences and find common ground, we can do extraordinary work to lift up the most vulnerable in our communities,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “At a moment when homelessness is rising and income inequality persists, we have to take every possible opportunity to protect Angelenos and make their lives more secure. Los Angeles is committed to building more accessible housing for people living with disabilities.”
The settlement acknowledged the city’s ongoing development of 10,000 units of new affordable housing over the next 10 years, including 1,500 accessible units for individuals with disabilities. That level of housing would exceed state and federal requirements, HUD officials stated. The city also committed to providing 3,100 accessible housing units for individuals with disabilities by retrofitting hundreds of existing affordable, developments across the city to meet the requirements.
In addition, the city and HUD will work together to create an “Enhanced Accessibility Program” to incorporate accessibility features into future affordable housing developments.
Anna Maria Farias, HUD assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said the size and scale of the agreement is unprecedented.
The department noted that people who believe they have experienced housing discrimination can file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at 800-669-9777. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can contact the Department using the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339. Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application.