HUD Approves Settlement Between Puerto Rico Public Housing Authority and Residents Who Alleged Disability Discrimination

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has negotiated an agreement between the Puerto Rico Public Housing Authority (PRPHA) and residents of the housing authority that have disabilities. Read the Voluntary Compliance/Conciliation Agreement.

The agreement resolves allegations that the El Trebol public housing development was inaccessible to persons with disabilities for more than a year because of inoperable elevators. Other allegations involved PRPHA refusing to accommodate residents with mobility impairments by actions such as moving them to first floor units, and a claim that at least one elderly resident suffered an injury while climbing a set of stairs due to the lack of elevator service.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from denying or limiting housing because of a person’s disability and from refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices.

“Housing authorities have an obligation to maintain their properties in a way that meets the needs of its residents, including those with disabilities,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Today’s settlement sends a clear message that HUD is committed to ensuring that housing providers comply with the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.”

The case came to HUD’s attention when four residents with disabilities filed individual complaints alleging that PRPHA had refused to, among other things, install accessible toilets and fix inoperable elevators.

Under the terms of the agreement, PRPHA will spend $884,640 to repair existing inoperable elevators and install six new elevators, and pay $23,760 to the four residents who filed the initial complaint. In addition, $32,400 will be paid to 16 other residents with disabilities who were harmed by the prolonged elevator outages. The agreement also calls for the establishment of a new educational technology center at the complex, improvements to the children’s playground, and the creation of a $20,000 Victim’s Fund to compensate other disabled family members who have not yet been identified.