Schakowsky, Clay, Duckworth Seek Answers on Availability of Accessible Public Housing

September 8, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, Congressman William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Chair of the Housing, Community Development and Insurance Subcommittee, and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) recently sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office requesting a report on the availability of affordable, accessible housing in the twenty-five largest metropolitan areas in the United States.

Specifically, this request directs GAO to explore:

  1. How does HUD oversee public housing agencies’ implementation of requirements to protect persons with disabilities from discrimination when applying for or living in public housing?
  2. What is the inventory of accessible public housing units in the twenty-five largest metropolitan areas in the US? What is the estimated gap between households requiring assistance and available units in those areas?
  3. What are the processes that housing authorities follow to help voucher-assisted households with disabilities find accessible units or retrofit non-accessible units? What happens if a voucher-holder is not able to find an accessible unit?
  4. What are the twenty-five largest metropolitan areas, including Chicago and St. Louis, doing to accommodate the housing needs of low-income households with disabilities
  5. How does HUD promote, catalog, and work to increase housing for people with disabilities?

“This request seeks to build on the work of my dear friend Marca Bristo, the founder of Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago and co-founder of the National Council on Independent Living, who passed away one year ago today,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “For 40 years, Marca fought tirelessly against inadequate accessible housing policy in Chicago and beyond, and I hope that this request will help our federal, state, and local governments ensure that they are complying with accessibility requirements, and that they have a sufficient supply of affordable accessible housing units.”

“Individuals with disabilities deserve equal access to homes that both accommodate their needs and provide for a safe environment for them to thrive,” said Senator Duckworth. “As a basic starting point, our federal housing programs must reflect that goal, which is why my colleagues and I are calling for GAO to conduct a thorough review of ADA compliance in various housing units so we can better understand where we are, where we want to go and how we get there.”

“As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance, I have made it my goal from day one to work to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable housing, and it is critically important that HUD prioritizes access for the disabled, a particularly vulnerable population, consistent with recommendations of the National Council on Disabilities that were rendered almost a decade ago,” said Congressman Clay.

“The lack of accessible, affordable housing continues to be the single greatest obstacle to ensuring every person with a disability has the opportunity to exercise their right to live independently, with dignity, in the community,” said Daisy Feidt, Access Living’s Executive Vice President.

“The Arc of the United States expresses our appreciation to Senator Duckworth and Representatives Clay and Schakowsky for bringing attention to this important issue,” said Molly Burgdorf, Director of Rights Policy at The Arc. “Unfortunately, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities continue to face a housing crisis based on a serious lack of affordable, accessible and integrated housing, and significant housing-related discrimination. We support efforts for increased transparency and oversight of HUD’s management of key housing programs, to help ensure that they meet the housing needs of people with disabilities.”

“According to the American Community Survey, 67% of the nation’s housing stock were single-family units, which have virtually no accessibility requirements.  This impacts people with disabilities in many communities by dramatically reducing the housing options and housing availability for low-income households with a member with a disability,” said Brian Peters, Housing Sub-Committee Co-Chair of the National Council on Independent Living. “When you consider that the affordable multi-family units in many cities are also aging units that predates the Fair Housing Act, the availability of affordable and accessible units in many cities is not great. This is an issue that has been largely ignored in many states and nationally even as we grapple with the demographic impact of our aging baby boomers.” 

You can read the full letter HERE.

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