WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today a $65 million agreement with the Puerto Rico Public Housing Administration to address longstanding accessibility issues affecting housing for residents with disabilities. Read HUD’s Voluntary Compliance Agreement.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate in the rental or sale of housing or to impose different terms and conditions based on disability.
By entering into the agreement, the Puerto Rico housing administration is taking the critical and necessary actions needed to fully comply with its statutory obligations under Section 504, the Americans with Disability Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968.
“We’re pleased we could reach this historic agreement with the Puerto Rico Housing Administration to significantly increase the number of accessible units for people with disabilities. I particularly commend the efforts of our colleagues at the Office of Public and Indian Housing for partnering with the Office of Fair Housing to make this agreement possible,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “The Puerto Rico Housing Administration has been trying for some time to ensure that public housing residents on the island are afforded the accessibility they need to fully use and enjoy their homes.”
The Puerto Rico Public Housing Administration owns, operates or controls 53,779 units in 52 municipalities throughout Puerto Rico. The agreement commits $65 million of Puerto Rico Public Housing Administration funds for retrofitting 2,560 housing units to make them accessible by December 31, 2021. The five-year agreement also includes flexibility for the housing administration to meet that requirement through a combination of actions, including:
- Retrofit up to 1,489 units in housing projects that were built, modernized and/or rehabilitated after July 11, 1988;
- Produce up to 1,209 units in 184 housing projects which were built, modernized and/or rehabilitated before July 11, 1988, and/or;
- Create up to 1,108 new replacements or modernized units in 25 project sites that are currently undergoing or which will undergo modernizations in the future.
- Setting aside $3.6 millioneach year for five years to cover activities related to this agreement.
Additionally, the agreement requires the housing administration to produce 1,024 sensory-accessible dwelling units by December 31, 2017. The housing administration will also ensure that existing administrative offices and non-housing programs are accessible to residents with disabilities; update its assessment of the special needs of families with disabilities; document all reasonable accommodation requests; and maintain a fair housing education program for all appropriate employees, including contractors and private management agents.
The agreement grants an additional five-year period for the housing administration to provide successful proof of full compliance with each condition, and marks the first time an agreement to help the Puerto Rico housing administration achieve its goal of meeting the needs of residents with disabilities comes with funding.
The agreement is the culmination of many years of work between HUD and housing administration to address numerous systemic and longstanding accessibility issues. In January 2003, HUD conducted an initial review of the housing administration’s compliance with Section 504 and the ADA, and found accessibility-related deficiencies in programs, services and policies affecting people with disabilities, as well as structural inaccessibility in housing units and common areas.
In September 2003, HUD and the Puerto Rico housing administration entered into a seven-year Voluntary Compliance Agreement to address the accessibility issues identified. That agreement expired on August 31, 2010, without the housing administration reaching full compliance. On December 27, 2011, HUD granted a four-year extension, but the housing administration’s efforts continued to face serious challenges.
HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.
More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet
at www.hud.gov and http://espanol.hud.gov.