Report calls for improved oversight of disability accessibility in HUD-assisted homes

WASHINGTON D.C. — Hundreds of thousands of homes that are supposed to be accessible to people with disabilities are still reported to lack the necessary accessibility features, according to a new watchdog report.

That report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the federal department in charge of overseeing fair housing issues needs to improve data collection to make sure the homes are compliant.

It said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) “does not systematically collect data on requests for reasonable accommodations” for households that take part in its three largest rental assistance programs.

“Hundreds of thousands of HUD-assisted households with disabilities report living in housing units without accessibility features,” the report said. “These households may request reasonable accommodations, including structural modifications, to meet their accessibility needs, but HUD does not have these data.”

The GAO is recommending that HUD improves data collection and develops a strategy for oversight of compliance when it comes to accessibility needs.

“Because HUD doesn’t collect enough data, they don’t know what the real lack is,” said Alicia Puente Cackley, a Director in GAO’s Financial Markets and Community Investment team. “Without a real way of quantifying it and keeping track of it, there isn’t a way for them to oversee it and oversee it well.”

In response to the findings, the report said HUD neither agrees or disagrees with the recommended changes and noted on-going challenges including limited resources.

“GAO would like to see HUD collect the data that it needs in order to be able to know whether it is serving the people that it needs to serve appropriately,” said Cackley. “They raised the issue of resources. Our take on that is that there are cost effective ways to do things and they’re already doing some data collection.”

This comes after we told you last week, a Senate committee discussed barriers to accessible housing.

Lawmakers in that hearing said less than one percent of housing in the U.S. is accessible to a person in a wheelchair.

We spoke with Domonique Howell, who testified before lawmakers about her lifelong struggle to find a place to live that accommodate her wheelchair.

“It’s been always a challenge,” said Howell. “I’ve had to either leave my chair outside of the bathroom... or have a commode like-toilet in my room, which is inhumane.”

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