Section 8: Issues Unique to Certain Housing Providers
Municipalities have a duty to accommodate their residents by making exceptions to their ordinances and zoning restrictions.
Examples of Zoning Exemption:
A not-for-profit organization attempts to purchase a fivebedroom home in a residential area to use as a group home for people with autism. The municipality’s zoning ordinance restricts occupancy to a single family. The organization requests a zoning variance so that the home can be occupied by five individuals with autism. The municipality should treat the organization’s request for a variance as a request for a reasonable accommodation.
8B: Condominium and Cooperative Associations
Both condominium and cooperative associations are covered by fair housing laws and are required to grant reasonable accommodations of modifications to people with disabilities.
- Associations must comply with fair housing laws: Section 18.4(q) of the Illinois Condominium Act specifically gives condominium association board members the authority to “reasonably accommodate the needs of a unit owner who is a person with a disability as required by the federal Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Illinois Human Rights Act, and applicable local ordinances with respect to the use of common elements or approval of modifications in a unit.”
- Associations must consider requests from both owners and renters: Associations are required to engage in the interactive process. The association may need to make an exception for tenants requesting an accommodation or modification if the association ordinarily only allows unit owners to communicate directly with the board or appear at board meetings.
- Association board members must remain unbiased in assessing requests: Although board members may be attorneys, doctors, or other professionals, their role is only to determine whether a resident has provided sufficient information for the accommodation or modification. The board may only request additional information if the resident does not submit reasonably reliable information.
- Associations must respond timely: It may take a condominium association longer to respond to requests for accommodations or modification due to the need to consider the request at the next board meeting. However, if the association takes too long to make its decision, the delay could be considered a denial. An association should consider expediting its meeting date or temporarily granting the accommodation until the board considers the request.
Examples of Request to a Condominium Board:
Chin is a person with a disability who has an emotional support animal. She rents a condo in a building that has a “no pets” policy. When she moves in, she alerts the association of her disability and need for the animal. She provides supporting documentation. The association informs Chin that it will evaluate her request at the next meeting, two months later. The association should either move up the board meeting or allow Chin to have her emotional support animal until it can evaluate her request.
8C: Public Housing Authorities and Other Federally Funded Housing Providers
Since public housing authorities and other subsidized housing providers receive federal financial assistance, they are covered by the Fair Housing Act, the Illinois Human Rights Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The application and waitlist process for a provider of subsidized housing must be accessible to people with disabilities. Further, the housing provider must provide a reasonable accommodation to an applicant on a waitlist when needed.
- Under Section 504, an applicant on the waitlist who needs an accessible unit is entitled to the next available accessible unit, even if there are people without disabilities on the waitlist ahead of the applicant.
- As with waitlists, a resident who needs to transfer to an accessible unit is entitled to the next available accessible unit over new applicants without disabilities.
- Similarly, a resident who needs a particular accessibility feature, such as a first-floor apartment, is entitled to the next available unit with that feature.
A housing provider can attempt to accommodate a resident requesting a reasonable modification by other means. A subsidized housing provider may offer to transfer a resident to a fully accessible unit within the same building or a different building.
A housing provider may move a resident without a disability who lives in an accessible unit to an inaccessible unit if the lease provides for it.
A transfer may not be appropriate if the resident has lived in the unit a long time, the modification is minor, or the disability would make it difficult to adjust to a new unit.
Example of a Transfer:
Kanwar has a vision disability and lived in a subsidized unit for over 20 years. Recently, due to a back condition, Kanwar started to use a walker. He requests that his housing provider install grab bars in the bathroom. Rather than install grab bars, the housing provider offers to move Kanwar to a fully accessible unit in a different building on the other side of town. The housing provider’s offer to transfer Kanwar to a fully accessible unit may not be appropriate given the time Kanwar has lived in the building and the ease of the modification.
A person may request a subsidized housing provider to add a family member with a disability to the resident’s household as a reasonable accommodation.
Example of Adding a Family Member:
Suzie has had a housing choice voucher for many years. Her adult son, Greg, was in a car accident and acquired a severe brain injury. Suzie requests that the public housing authority add Greg to her voucher so she can provide care for him. The public housing authority should treat this as a request for a reasonable accommodation.
If a resident needs a live-in aide as a reasonable accommodation, the subsidized housing provider must include a live-in aide in determining the family size and may require an additional bedroom for the live-in aide. The subsidized housing provider cannot count the live-in aide’s income in determining the household income.
Another Example of Adding a Family Member:
Regina has a Section 8 housing choice voucher for a onebedroom unit for herself and her seven-year old son. Regina’s disability requires the care of a live-in aide. Regina requests an accommodation to have her aide reside with her. Since a live-in aide is counted in determining family size, and federal regulations require one bedroom for every two people, Regina would be entitled to a Section 8 housing choice voucher for a two-bedroom unit. Further, the live-in aide’s income would not count towards Regina’s household income.