Baltimore moves forward on accessible public housing

worker building brick wall
Accessible Housing

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland signed off on a Supplemental Consent Decree on October 30, modifying an existing agreement requiring the city of Baltimore to expand its accessible public housing stock.

“We are pleased with the significant progress made by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to implement the terms of the original decree,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, in a news release. “We look forward to working with the Housing Authority to create new accessible housing opportunities for persons with disabilities and enhancing their quality of life.”

In 2002, the Maryland Disability Law Center sued the Housing Authority, accusing it of failing to accommodate people with disabilities in its housing services, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. At the time, the MDLC argued that as many as 15,000 low-income people with disabilities either were in need of accessible public housing, or lived in out-of-compliance facilities, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The parties and the DOJ reached a settlement in 2004, the first of its type in regard to a public housing agency. Under the Consent Decree, the Housing Authority agreed to pay $1,039,000 in damages, build more than 2,000 new housing units and implement a variety of other systematic changes.

As part of the agreement, the Housing Authority agreed to build 756 new two and three bedroom single family homes. As of August 31, it was just 53 short of this goal. Likewise, it agreed to build 500 units for non-elderly people with disabilities. Thus far, it has built 411. The Supplemental Decree gave it an extension until the end of 2016 to fulfill these obligations.

The Housing Authority also agreed to build 100 housing units for non-elderly people with disabilities, known as “Long Term Affordables.” The Housing Authority was given until the end of 2017 to complete this goal.

The Maryland Disability Law Center, and Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Maryland and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.