|HUD No. 16-132
September 8, 2016
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced today an agreement between the City of Phoenix, Arizona and two fair housing organizations resolving multiple complaints of housing discrimination. The Southwest Fair Housing Council (SFHC) and the Arizona Fair Housing Center (AFHC) alleged Phoenix violated the Fair Housing Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in its administration of the City's federally funded Housing Choice Voucher program.
Specifically, the organizations claimed the city did not make its online pre-application process accessible to persons with disabilities, provided vital documents in English only, and failed to notify applicants with limited English proficiency (LEP) that they could request language assistance. Read the agreement.
"Decent, safe affordable housing provides the foundation low-income families need to build a better life and should be offered on an equal basis," said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "HUD commends Phoenix city leaders for their swift action and for agreeing to change their subsidized housing application process so that it is consistent with our nation's fair housing laws."
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, including the failure to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to programs and activities by LEP persons. The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate in the rental or sale of housing or to impose different terms and conditions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Section 504 and Title II of the ADA prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance and by state and local government entities.
The case came to HUD's attention when SFHC and AFHC filed a complaint alleging the City of Phoenix engaged in discriminatory housing practices, including how the City's housing authority managed its HUD-supported Housing Choice Voucher program. According to the complaint, the program, which had not been open to new applications since 2005, was due to be opened for new applicants in early August, 2016. Shortly before the scheduled opening, the groups filed their complaint.
According to the agreement, after the complaint was filed, the city of Phoenix immediately adjusted its processes to ensure that they comply with civil rights laws. In addition, the city, prior to entering into the agreement, extended the period of time that its waiting list would be open and issued a press release announcing the extension to ensure that prospective applicants would have the opportunity to benefit from the changes.
Under the terms of the agreement, the city of Phoenix also will continue accepting both online and paper pre-applications for the Housing Choice Voucher program; continue providing reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities, including accepting pre-applications over the phone, providing one-on-one assistance to people with disabilities in completing their applications, and providing interpreter services to applicants who are deaf or hard of hearing; continue providing oral language assistance, including interpreter service, to LEP persons who need assistance in the application process; continue ensuring staff are available during business hours to respond to reasonable accommodation and language assistance requests; continue to prominently display on its website the availability of language assistance and reasonable accommodations; post the particulars of the Conciliation/Voluntary Compliance Agreement on its website in English, Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese, and Chinese; and obtain fair housing training for its staff.
People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed at www.hud.gov/fairhousing or by downloading HUD's free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple and Android devices.
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