Disability advocates call for reasonable accommodations in public housing eviction procedures

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hands holding a piece of paper with the word "EVICTED"The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities submitted public comments [PDF] to the Department of Housing and Urban Development on March 4, calling on the agency to create a reasonable accommodation exception for certain tenants with disabilities whose income disqualifies them from continuing to live in public housing units.

“For some people with disabilities, regardless of their income, a move out of their current public housing unit will have a significant negative impact,” the comments state.

On February 4, HUD issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, opening a 30-day public comments period on ways to streamline the process that public housing authorities use when evicting tenants whose incomes exceed federal guidelines.

The request came in light of a July 2015 report from the HUD Office of Inspector General report, which estimated that more than 25,000 of the nation’s approximately 1.1 million public housing residents are over-income.

“An increase in income is a good and welcomed event for families…However, an increase in income may be minimal or temporary, and a minimal or temporary rise in income should not be the basis for termination of public housing assistance,” the HUD stated in the notice. “This ANPR solicits comment on how to structure policies to reduce the number of individuals and families whose incomes significantly exceed the income limit and have significantly exceeded the income limit for a sustained period of time after initial admission.”

In the comments, the CCD argues that certain over-income tenants should be able to remain in their public housing units, due to to the unique circumstances and nature of their disabilities.

Listed examples include people requiring accessible housing living in communities with low access to similar housing arrangements, or tenants with intellectual disabilities for whom moving would be particularly stressful or traumatic.

Currently, the only exceptions that exist for over-income tenants are for people participating in a Family Self Sufficiency Program or receiving an earned income disallowance. Last month, however, the House of Representatives passed the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act, which, among other things, would eliminate the latter exception.

In the event that that measure becomes law, the CCD proposes a few more exceptions for over-income tenants, which, while not specific to people with disabilities, would likely have a larger impact on this population.

Specifically, the CCD recommended that public housing authorities not be able to evict tenants for two years after the income increase if a member of the tenant’s household was unemployed for the previous year, is participating in a job training program, or received public assistance during the previous six months.

The HUD regulations for over-income tenants were last updated in 2004.