What are Reasonable Accommodations? (Section 8 Housing & Low Income Housing)

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Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. § 1437f), often called Section 8, as repeatedly amended, authorizes the payment of rental housing assistance to private landlords on behalf of low-income households in the United States. Fort Lauderdale, Florida Housing Authority Director William H. Lindsey, upon the advice of Housing Authority attorney J. Richard Smith initially developed 11(b) financing in the early 1970s to accommodate local savings and loans interested in assisting with urban renewal projects Lindsey eventually brought to fruition[citation needed].

This was the initial impetus for the subsequent development of the now well-known Section 8 Program[citation needed]. Of the 5.2 million American Households that received rental assistance in 2018, approximately 2.2 million of those households received a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. 68% of total rental assistance in the United States goes to seniors, children, and those with disabilities.The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development manages Section 8 programs.

Rights and Obligations Under Federal Law
Various federal laws require housing providers to make reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications for individuals with disabilities. Federal nondiscrimination laws that protect against disability discrimination cover not only tenants and home seekers with disabilities, but also buyers and renters without disabilities who live or are associated with individuals with disabilities. These laws also prohibit housing providers from refusing residency to persons with disabilities, or placing conditions on their residency, because they require reasonable accommodations or modifications.

The Fair Housing Act
Under the Fair Housing Act a reasonable accommodation is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service. The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling and public and common use areas.

In addition, the Fair Housing Act prohibits a housing provider from refusing to permit, at the expense of the person with a disability, reasonable modifications of existing premises occupied or to be occupied by such person if such modifications may be necessary to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises.

Section 504
Unlike the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 does not distinguish between reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications. Instead, both are captured by the term “reasonable accommodations. Under Section 504, the requirement to make reasonable accommodations applies to any changes that may be necessary to provide equal opportunity to participate in any federally-assisted program or activity.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Similar to and based upon the Section 504 reasonable accommodation requirement, Titles II and III of the ADA require public entities and public accommodations to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, or procedures to avoid discrimination.

Reasonable Modifications
Under the Fair Housing Act, a reasonable modification is a structural change made to existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability, in order to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises. Reasonable modifications can include structural changes to interiors and exteriors of dwellings and to common and public use areas.

Reasonable Accommodations
A reasonable accommodation is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces, or to fulfill their program obligations. Please note that the ADA often refers to these types of accommodations as “modifications.”
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