Housing in America is an interesting life often times simply because there are millions of people in this nation. Not everyone can afford to live in a home of their own, meaning many of us live in apartments and pay rent. For those of us who do live in apartments, finding one with the accommodations we need as people who experience forms of disabilities may be just one of the challenges we face. Among the additional challenges we must deal with are loud neighbors, inadequate numbers of disability parking spaces, and awareness of the very laws and programs in place for us as people with disabilities.
In the apartment this writer currently resides in, one of the neighbors out of the entire building has been causing quite a ruckus. On three different occasions over a period of six weeks, the neighbors upstairs have had truly wild screaming matches that found them yelling at each other at the top of their lungs, not only in their apartment - but down the hall, down the stairs, out into the parking lot and then down the block. The rest of the people in the building are easy enough to get along with; what are the people with disabilities, non-disabled persons, and seniors in the building to do
The manager has been approached more than once about the loud tenants, who play their stereo loud enough to vibrate the walls at all hours as well. Seemingly unaware or unconcerned about their fellow tenants, these annoying neighbors appear to be lost in their own little world, all while the manager seems to desire nothing more than avoidance of the situation. It took a call to the police department to quiet them down, after more than one tenant left the building.
People with disabilities, people who do not experience any form of disability at all, and seniors all need sleep. One tenant who is disturbing an entire population of people in an apartment building simply must not be allowed to disturb the rest of the building for their own lifestyle, which made this writer wonder if apartment tenants have a right to live in peace. Every city has a law related to disturbing the peace, yet enforcement of this law should not be something the police have to deal with, managers of apartments should.
Adequate Disability Parking
Another issue with apartment complexes is often times the number of disability parking places. At the building this writer lives in this is most certainly true, to the point where one person became upset over the one spot in the main lot at the building after discovering that there are indeed multiple people with disabilities living here. There is one other spot on the street, but no others that I am aware of. In a building of a few dozen residents, this is simply unacceptable. America's largest minority population is People with Disabilities, and there are Seniors to think of as well as people with temporary disabilities.
Allocation of the number of disability parking spaces must be determined in accordance with the percentage of Americans with Disabilities. We represent approximately fifteen percent of the population, therefore the number of disability parking spaces in any given apartment complex parking lot must be equal to or greater than fifteen percent at least. Remember there are seniors and people with temporary disabilities to consider as well, so the number of spaces should probably be around twenty-five percent. The overall population in America continues to age.
Fair Housing and People with Disabilities
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based upon disability, race, religion, color, familial status, and national origin. The Act covers private housing, housing that receives Federal financial assistance, as well as State and local government housing. According to the Fair Housing Act, it is unlawful to discriminate in any aspect of renting or selling housing, or to deny housing to a person who is buying or renting based upon a form of disability a person experiences.
The Fair Housing Act requires owners of housing to make reasonable exceptions to their operations and policies to give people with disabilities equal housing opportunities. As an example, a landlord who has a, 'no pets,' policy must grant an exception to their rule for a person who has a service animal. The Fair Housing Act also requires landlords to give tenants with disabilities reasonable access-related modifications to their living spaces as well as to spaces for common use. The Act also requires new multifamily housing with four or more units to be designed and built to allow access for people with disabilities, to include:
One of the major issues with apartments in America is, of course, the fact that most of them are old and inaccessible. The Fair Housing Act doesn't do a whole lot for people with disabilities who are forced to live on meager incomes and choose among apartments that are not built to accommodate them. Doorways in the apartment this writer lives in would never allow a wheelchair into the bedroom or bathroom with any sense of ease, for example. There are no grab bars in the shower, the tub makes it inaccessible, and there are stairs to climb just to get into the hallway to the front door.
Are there newer, more accessible building in America for people who experience forms of disabilities? Certainly! If you can afford to live in them, or find a vacancy. A newer building means higher rent, as well as more competition to simply get an apartment. For the millions upon millions of people who experience forms of disabilities in America, this challenge is simply too great. We are left with apartments that were built prior to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, despite several additional housing laws such as:
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VI prohibits discrimination based upon a person's race, color, or nation origin in activities and programs that receive federal financial assistance.
The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968: The Architectural Barriers Act requires that buildings and facilities designed, constructed, altered, or leased with certain federal funds after September of 1969 must be accessible and usable by people with disabilities.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability in any activity or program that receives federal financial assistance.
Section 109 of Title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974: Section 109 prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person's race, color, sex, national origin, or religion in activities and programs receiving financial assistance from HUD's, 'Community Development and Block Grant Program.'
The Age Discrimination Act of 1975: The Age Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person's age in activities or programs that receive federal financial assistance.
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990: Title II prohibits discrimination based on disability services, programs, and activities provided or made available by public entities. HUD enforces Title II in relation to state and local public housing, housing assistance, as well as housing referrals.
Executive Order 13217: Executive Order 13217 requires federal agencies to evaluate their programs and policies to determine if any of them may be revised or modified in order to improve the availability of community-based living arrangements for people with disabilities.
All of these laws, going all the way back to 1964 - yet the apartments we live in remain inaccessible in far too many instances. Here in Colorado, for example, many of the apartment building are built in a manner where there are stairs going down to the, 'first floor,' and stairs going up to additional floors, leaving people who use wheelchairs completely out of the loop. No efforts have been made to make these building accessible whatsoever, despite the return of endless numbers of veterans with disabilities returning home from military conflicts, for example, who need housing in a State with multiple major military bases.
Every single apartment complex in America might apply a 1% increase in the rent it charges, something that would be unpopular, but would allow building owners to begin placing that money towards accessibility modifications to apartments they own. Apartment unit by apartment unit, owners could begin installing wider doorways, roll-in showers with grab bars and more. The process must begin somewhere.
As for noisy and annoying tenants who have no respect for their fellow neighbors, yelling and screaming and playing their stereo's at all hours... There are headphones and ear buds available at nearly every department store in this nation. Personal conflicts can be resolved at the parking lots of these same department stores, or at the park. While calling the police department is highly undesirable, neither is disturbing an entire building of tenants over your own personal lifestyle.
Fair Housing Accessibility First
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Fair Housing Rights Center