GFHA Administrative Plan for the Housing Choice Voucher Program
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Chapter 2: Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity
PART II: POLICIES RELATED TO PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES 2-II.A. OVERVIEW One type of disability discrimination prohibited by the Fair Housing Act is the refusal to make reasonable accommodation in rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodation may be necessary to afford a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a program or dwelling under the program.
The GFHA must ensure that persons with disabilities have full access to the GFHA’s programs and services.This responsibility begins with the first contact by an interested family and continues through every aspect of the program.
GFHA Policy The GFHA will ask all applicants and participants if they require any type of accommodations, in writing, on the intake application, reexamination documents, and notices of adverse action by the GFHA, by including the following language: “If you or anyone in your family is a person with disabilities, and you require a specific accommodation in order to fully utilize our programs and services, please contact the housing authority.”
A specific name and phone number of designated staff will be provided to process requests for accommodation.
The GFHA will display posters and other housing information and signage in locations throughout the GFHA’s office in such a manner as to be easily readable from a wheelchair.
2-II.B. DEFINITION OF REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment made to a rule, policy, practice, or service that allows a person with a disability to have equal access to the HCV program. For example, reasonable accommodations may include making home visits, extending the voucher term, or approving an exception payment standard in order for a participant to lease an accessible dwelling unit.
Federal regulations stipulate that requests for accommodations will be considered reasonable if they do not create an “undue financial and administrative burden” for the PHA, or result in a “fundamental alteration” in the nature of the program or service offered. A fundamental alteration is a modification that alters the essential nature of a provider’s operations.
Types of Reasonable Accommodations When needed, the GFHA will modify normal procedures to accommodate the needs of a person with disabilities. Examples include:
Permitting applications and reexaminations to be completed by mail
Conducting home visits
Using higher payment standards (either within the acceptable range or with HUD approval of a payment standard outside the GFHA range) if the GFHA determines this is necessary to enable a person with disabilities to obtain a suitable housing unit
Providing time extensions for locating a unit when necessary because of lack of availability of accessible units or special challenges of the family in seeking a unit
Permitting an authorized designee or advocate to participate in the application or certification process and any other meetings with GFHA staff
2-II.C. REQUEST FOR AN ACCOMMODATION If an applicant or participant indicates that an exception, change, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service is needed because of a disability, HUD requires that GFHA treat the information as a request for a reasonable accommodation, even if no formal request is made [Joint Statement of the Departments of HUD and Justice: Reasonable Accommodations under the Fair Housing Act].
The family must explain what type of accommodation is needed to provide the person with the disability full access to GFHA’s programs and services.
If the need for the accommodation is not readily apparent or known to GFHA, the family must explain the relationship between the requested accommodation and the disability. There must be an identifiable connection, or nexus, between the requested accommodation and the individual’s disability.
GFHA Policy The GFHA will encourage the family to make its request in writing using a reasonable accommodation request form. However, the GFHA will consider the accommodation any time the family indicates that an accommodation is needed whether or not a formal written request is submitted. If the family requesting a reasonable accommodation is unable to submit a reasonable accommodation request form, the GFHA will document the request in writing.
2-II.D. VERIFICATION OF DISABILITY The regulatory civil rights definition for persons with disabilities is provided in Exhibit 2-1 at the end of this chapter.The definition of a person with a disability for the purpose of obtaining a reasonable accommodation is much broader than the HUD definition of disability which is used for waiting list preferences and income allowances.
Before providing an accommodation, the GFHA must determine that the person meets the definition of a person with a disability, and that the accommodation will enhance the family’s access to the GFHA’s programs and services.
If a person’s disability is obvious or otherwise known to the GFHA, and if the need for the requested accommodation is also readily apparent or known, no further verification will be required [Joint Statement of the Departments of HUD and Justice: Reasonable Accommodations under the Fair Housing Act].
If a family indicates that an accommodation is required for a disability that is not obvious or otherwise known to the GFHA, the GFHA must verifythat the person meets the definition of a person with a disability, and that the limitations imposed by the disability require the requested accommodation.
When verifying a disability, the GFHA will follow the verification policies provided in Chapter 7. All information related to a person’s disability will be treated in accordance with the confidentiality policies provided in Chapter 16. In addition to the general requirements that govern all verification efforts, the following requirements apply when verifying a disability:
Third-party verification must be obtained from an individual identified by the family who is competent to make the determination. A doctor or other medical professional, a peer support group, a non-medical service agency, or a reliable third party who is in a position to know about the individual’s disability may provide verification of a disability [Joint Statement of the Departments of HUD and Justice: Reasonable Accommodations under the Fair Housing Act]
The GFHA must request only information that is necessary to evaluate the disability-related need for the accommodation. The GFHA will not inquire about the nature or extent of any disability.
Medical records will not be accepted or retained in the participant file.
In the event that the GFHA does receive confidential information about a person’s specific diagnosis, treatment, or the nature or severity of the disability, the GFHA will dispose of it. In place of the information, the GFHA will note in the file that the disability and other requested information have been verified, the date the verification was received, and the name and address of the knowledgeable professional who sent the information [Notice PIH 2010-26].
2-II.E. APPROVAL/DENIAL OF A REQUESTED ACCOMMODATION [Joint Statement of the Departments of HUD and Justice: Reasonable Accommodations under the Fair Housing Act, Notice PIH 2010-26].
The GFHA must approve a request for an accommodation if the following three conditions are met:
The request was made by or on behalf of a person with a disability.
There is a disability-related need for the accommodation.
The requested accommodation is reasonable, meaning it would not impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the GFHA, or fundamentally alter the nature of the GFHA’s HCV operations (including the obligation to comply with HUD requirements and regulations).
Requests for accommodations must be assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account factors such as the overall size of the GFHA’s program with respect to the number of employees, type of facilities and size of budget, type of operation including composition and structure of workforce, the nature and cost of the requested accommodation, and the availability of alternative accommodations that would effectively meet the family’s disability-related needs.
Before making a determination whether to approve the request, the GFHA may enter into discussion and negotiation with the family, request more information from the family, or may require the family to sign a consent form so that the GFHA may verify the need for the requested accommodation.
GFHA Policy After a request for an accommodation is presented, the GFHA will respond in writing within 10 business days. If the GFHA denies a request for an accommodation because there is no relationship, or nexus, found between the disability and the requested accommodation, the notice will inform the family of the right to appeal the GFHA ’s decision through an informal review (if applicable) or informal hearing (see Chapter 16).
If the GFHA denies a request for an accommodation because it is not reasonable (it would impose an undue financial and administrative burden or fundamentally alter the nature of the GFHA’s operations), the GFHA will discuss with the family whether an alternative accommodation could effectively address the family’s disability-related needs without a fundamental alteration to the HCV program and without imposing an undue financial and administrative burden.
If the GFHA believes that the family has failed to identify a reasonable alternative accommodation after interactive discussion and negotiation, the GFHA will notify the family in writing of its determination within 10 business days from the date of the most recent discussion or communication with the family.
2-II.F. PROGRAM ACCESSIBILITY FOR PERSONS WITH HEARING OR VISION IMPAIRMENTS HUD regulations require the GFHA to ensure that persons with disabilities related to hearing and vision have reasonable access to the GFHA's programs and services [24 CFR 8.6].
At the initial point of contact with each applicant, the GFHA shall inform all applicants of alternative forms of communication that can be used other than plain language paperwork.
GFHA Policy To meet the needs of persons with hearing impairments, TTD/TTY (text telephone display / teletype) communication will be available. To meet the needs of persons with vision impairments, large-print and audio versions of key program documents will be made available upon request.When visual aids are used in public meetings or presentations, or in meetings with GFHA staff, one-on-one assistance will be provided upon request.
Additional examples of alternative forms of communication are sign language interpretation; having material explained orally by staff; or having a third party representative (a friend, relative or advocate, named by the applicant) to receive, interpret and explain housing materials and be present at all meetings.
2-II.G. PHYSICAL ACCESSIBILITY The GFHA must comply with a variety of regulations pertaining to physical accessibility, including the following:
Notice PIH 2010-26
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968
The Fair Housing Act of 1988
The GFHA’s policies concerning physical accessibility must be readily available to applicants and participants. They can be found in three key documents:
This plan describes the key policies that govern the GFHA’s responsibilities with regard to physical accessibility.
Notice PIH 2010-26 summarizes information about pertinent laws and implementing regulations related to nondiscrimination and accessibility in federally-funded housing programs.
The PHA Plan provides information about self-evaluation, needs assessment, and transition plans.
The design, construction, or alteration of GFHA facilities must conform to the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). Newly-constructed facilities must be designed to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Alterations to existing facilities must be accessible to the maximum extent feasible, defined as not imposing an undue financial and administrative burden on the operations of the HCV program. When issuing a voucher to a family that includes an individual with disabilities, the PHA will include a current list of available accessible units known to the GFHA and will assist the family in locating an available accessible unit, if necessary.
In general, owners must permit the family to make reasonable modifications to the unit. However, the owner is not required to pay for the modification and may require that the unit be restored to its original state at the family’s expense when the family moves.
2-II.H. DENIAL OR TERMINATION OF ASSISTANCE GFHA’s decision to deny or terminate the assistance of a family that includes a person with disabilities is subject to consideration of reasonable accommodation [24 CFR 982.552 (2)(iv)].
When applicants with disabilities are denied assistance, the notice of denial must inform them of the GFHA’s informal review process and their right to request an informal review. In addition, the notice must inform applicants with disabilities of their right to request reasonable accommodations to participate in the informal review process.
When a participant family’s assistance is terminated, the notice of termination must inform them of the GFHA’s informal hearing process and their right to request a hearing and reasonable accommodation.
When reviewing reasonable accommodation requests, the GFHA must consider whether any mitigating circumstances can be verified to explain and overcome the problem that led to the GFHA’s decision to deny or terminate assistance. If a reasonable accommodation will allow the family to meet the requirements, the GFHA must make the accommodation.