Affordable housing providers who receive federal funds must make reasonable accommodations to ensure that all people, regardless of disability, can apply for their programs and have full enjoyment of their units if selected. Under federal civil rights laws, a disabled person is one who: 1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; 2) has a record of such impairment; or 3) is regarded as having any such impairment. A reasonable accommodation is a change in a rule, policy, practice or service that may be necessary to allow a disabled person the equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling.
Reasonable accommodations must be provided for disabled persons in the application process. Application forms should have information about how to request assistance in completing the application. Reasonable accommodations could include allowing a service animal to be present for applicant interviews, assistance completing forms or translation services for persons with Limited English Proficiency. If no reasonable accommodation information is readily available, contact the housing authority, property management company or landlord for assistance.
Persons with disabilities can also request reasonable accommodations in public spaces and in their units. Some examples of accommodations include a dedicated handicapped parking space, a lower mailbox for someone in a wheelchair, adding grab bars in a bathroom or allowing a service animal in a building that prohibits pets.
For buildings first occupied after March 1991 with four or more units and an elevator, federal accessibility requirements provide a number of benefits to residents with disabilities. This is true even if the property is not solely restricted to disabled residents. Overall, all public and common use areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities, and all doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs. In the apartments, there must be an accessible path through the unit, reinforced bathroom walls for installation of grab bars and accessible controls such as thermostats, light switches and levered door handles.
HUD allows some additional services in federally assisted housing that help tenants who have difficulty with one or more daily life activities, promoting an assisted living environment. HUD regulations allow a live-in aide or caregiver. HUD defines a live-in aide as someone who lives with a disabled person and is essential to the care and wellbeing of the person, not obligated to support the person with disabilities and would not be living in the unit except to provide the necessary supportive services. Caregivers may provide both physical assistance, such as help with bathing or getting in and out of a wheelchair, and cognitive assistance, such as reminders to take medications or supervising meal preparation.
A tenant with a demonstrated need for 24-hour assistance can qualify for a larger unit to provide quarters for a caregiver. For example, a single disabled tenant would normally qualify for either a studio or one-bedroom apartment. If they qualify for a live-in aide, they can qualify for a two-bedroom unit. Live-in aides do not count as part of the household for calculating income eligibility. They can be removed or evicted by the PHA the same as tenants for infractions, such as drug or criminal-related activity. This does not disqualify the tenant as long as they were were not involved in the activity. Live-in aides also do not have a right to remain in the unit after the disabled tenant has moved out.