Martinez and Home Builders Announce Historic Partnership to Promote Fair Housing and Accessibility for Persons With Disabilities


WASHINGTON, April 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez today announced a historic partnership with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) to educate and train persons in the housing industry about their responsibilities to provide accessible housing to persons with disabilities. In reaching this accord, HUD and NAHB agree to aggressively promote design and construction requirements for accessibility in all multifamily housing, including apartment buildings, condominiums and cooperatives.

Today's announcement is the first time HUD and NAHB agreed to team up to educate large segments of the construction industry and the general public about the requirements that are essential to making multifamily housing accessible to persons with disabilities.

"Persons with a disability should not be denied accessible housing because a building wasn't constructed with them in mind," said Martinez. "I am pleased to join the National Association of Home Builders in a partnership to ensure people with disabilities have the access to housing that the law provides."

Gary Garczynski, President of NAHB, said, "We applaud Secretary Martinez for his leadership on Fair Housing and we are committed to working with HUD to ensure that anyone who needs accessible housing will find a ready supply available."

Enacted in 1968, the Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion and national origin. The Act was amended in 1974 to outlaw discrimination based on sex and in 1988 to bar discrimination against families with children and persons with disabilities.

Under the terms of the agreement announced today, HUD and the NAHB will launch a broad outreach effort to builders, architects, building owners, engineers, local governments, disability advocates and others to increase awareness of design and building requirements. HUD and NAHB will also encourage national trade organizations, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities to inform their members on how to construct multifamily housing that is accessible to persons with disabilities.

As part of its continuing effort to increase awareness of the Fair Housing Act's accessibility requirements, HUD awarded $900,000 to the International Code Council (ICC), a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to developing a single set of comprehensive and coordinated national model construction codes. Under this grant, ICC is working in partnership with the National Organization on Disability and NAHB on a program to encourage adoption of model building codes at the state and local level that are consistent with the Fair Housing Act.

In addition, HUD awarded a $1 million grant to KPMG Consulting, Inc., to develop a training curriculum, a technical guidance plan and a Design and Construction Resource Center that will provide training and technical guidance on a national scale for a three-year period.

In multifamily housing first occupied after March 13, 1991, federal law requires:

* An accessible building entrance on an accessible route;

* Accessible public and common use areas;

* Doors to allow passage by persons in a wheelchair;

* An accessible route into and through the covered dwelling unit;

* Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other

environmental controls;

* Reinforced bathroom walls to allow installation of grab bars; and,

* Kitchens and bathrooms that provide space for maneuvering a wheelchair.

April is "Fair Housing Month" and marks the 34th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. Among HUD's core missions is to enforce the provisions of this landmark legislation. Before Martinez took office, 85 percent of fair housing complaints went unresolved within the legally prescribed 100 days. Today, that backlog is 60 percent, representing the importance Martinez and President Bush place on responding to complaints of housing discrimination.

HUD plays a vital role in implementing the Fair Housing Act and actively encourages states, counties and cities to enact equivalent laws. This year alone, HUD will award more than $45 million in grants to fund private groups and public agencies to fight housing discrimination -- an increase of almost $4 million over last year.

HUD also works with public housing agencies to promote the availability of fully accessible low-income housing for persons with disabilities. For example, earlier this month, HUD reached an agreement with the Boston Housing Authority to make nearly 700 apartments fully accessible to disabled public housing residents. In addition, last November HUD signed a similar agreement with the Washington, DC Housing Authority to make more than 500 fully accessible public housing units available to persons with disabilities.

For more information about HUD's accessibility guidelines for persons with disabilities, visit http://www.hud.gov/library/bookshelf09/fhefhag.cfm .