InvestmentsPolitics & Money

HUD, City of Los Angeles reach “landmark” settlement in accessible housing dispute

LA to pay "hundreds of millions" to improve accessibility for disabled residents

The Department of Housing and Urban Development reached a settlement with the City of Los Angeles Friday that will put an end to a years-long battle between the two over the city’s obligation to provide accessible housing for the disabled.

According to the “landmark” agreement, the city will pay what will eventually amount to hundreds of millions of dollars to enhance handicap accessibility for residents living in its low-income housing.

The exact sum will depend on how long it takes the city to complete the requirements spelled out in the agreement, which states that the value will average a minimum of $20 million per year.

The work includes the development of 10,000 units of new affordable housing over the next 10 years, including 1,500 accessible units for the disabilities – a number that exceeds current state and federal requirements.

The city will also retrofit existing housing developments that do not meet accessibility standards to create an additional 3,100 housing units for individuals with disabilities. And, it will participate in program with HUD that will explore innovative ways to enhance accessibility in affordable housing developments.

“As a result of this settlement, thousands of individuals with disabilities, including those experiencing homelessness in the City of Los Angeles, will have equal access to affordable housing and access to cutting-edge features that will enable them to live independently,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson.  “I’m pleased we can now turn a page and begin the real work of providing affordable housing to the people who need it most and have gone without it for too long.”

Importantly, the terms of the settlement note that the City of Los Angeles is not admitting any wrongdoing or violation of federal law.

This will officially close the civil rights investigation against the city brought by the Department of Justice in 2017, which alleged that it misappropriated hundreds of millions of dollars from HUD that were earmarked for the express purpose of creating accessible housing.

HUD said the DOJ filed the suit after the department was unable to achieve a successful resolution with the city, but that all changed once the authorities got involved, with the city expressing “renewed interest in achieving resolution of this matter through a voluntary compliance agreement with HUD.”

The DOJ then kicked the case back to HUD in the hopes that a resolution be reached outside of the courtroom. Friday’s announcement brings the matter to an end.

HUD’s General Counsel Paul Compton Jr. warned HUD grantees to pay attention to this agreement. 

“HUD expects its grantees to comply with the requirements of fair housing and civil rights laws,” Compton said in a release. “We will use the legal tools at our disposal to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities to live in affordable, accessible housing.”

This is not the first time the City of Los Angeles has been forced to cough up cash for its failure to comply with HUD’s accessibility guidelines.

In 2016, the city agreed to pay more than $200 million over the course of a decade to settle a 2012 lawsuit brought by three fair housing groups. The terms of the agreement required the city to ensure that 4,000 units will be built or retrofitted to accommodate disabled residents living in low-income housing.

And now, the settlement announced Friday will bring even more accessible housing to the city.

Anna Maria Farias, HUD’s assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said the department is pleased with the substantial commitment to accessible housing laid out in the agreement.  

“The scope and scale of this agreement is unprecedented, and we are unaware of an accessibility commitment of this magnitude,” Farias said. “I’m happy that the city will finally deliver accessible housing to Angelinos with disabilities and will be working with HUD to fulfill the promises of this in the years to come.”

 

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