By Melvina Ford, Executive Director

To help multifamily housing providers build accessible housing for people living with disabilities, the Equal Rights Center (ERC) has launched the first ever fair housing accessibility app— the Fair Housing Act Checklist App.

About 57 million people (nearly 1 in 5) in the United States live with a disability. This includes roughly 30 million people who live with a mobility disability, possibly requiring the use of a wheelchair or cane; more than 8 million people who have difficultly seeing; and, nearly 8 million people who have difficulty hearing.

By offering accessible housing, multifamily housing developers can expand their customer base, reaching this significant market of home renters and buyers who live with a disability.

To say this market is growing is an understatement.  In 2014, there were roughly 46 million people in the U.S. age 65 and older.  By 2060, that number will double, increasing the number of people living with a disability because of age.  Consider that the probability of having a severe disability is only 1 in 20 for those age 15 to 24, while it is 5 in 20 for those age 65 to 69.

If the business incentive to build accessible is not enough, there is the penalty for failing to do so.  Just last year, the city of Los Angeles settled an accessible housing lawsuit for $200 million, and the Justice Department required 71 apartment owners and developers in 4 states to make extensive retrofits, including costly fixes like installing properly sloped curb walkways.

The Fair Housing Act requires that apartments and condos built after 1991 meet its 7 accessibility requirements, all of which are captured in the ERC Fair Housing Act Checklist App.  The App is designed to be used by professionals in the field to check and track the accuracy of measurements on a smartphone.

Using the App, a user can:

  • See each of the 7 accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act in detail.
  • Track progress complying with each section of the requirement.
  • Click on a particular section and see information about specific measurements and, in some instances, diagrams.
  • Track progress for a particular building overall.
  • Email a status report at any time to anyone with an email address.
  • Access the ERC’s hard copy Fair Housing Act Checklist publication in PDF.

The ERC’s Fair Housing Act Checklist App is FREE and can be downloaded for Android devices in the Google Play store at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.erc.FairHousing.  It is also available on iTunes by search for fair housing.

The cost of fixing accessibility barriers on a retrofit basis far exceeds the cost of ensuring compliant design and construction during the construction phase of a multifamily housing project. The ERC’s Fair Housing Act Checklist App ensures that multifamily housing professionals have the tools they need to do so.

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The Equal Rights Center (ERC) is a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations in its home community of Greater Washington D.C. and Nationwide.

The ERC began an accessible housing initiative more than 12 years ago, and, since then, the ERC has worked with numerous national, regional and local multifamily housing companies to make thousands of apartment and condominium units across the country more accessible to people living with a disability.

The ERC also established the Multifamily Housing Resource Program (MHRP), a program for industry leaders, representing more than 600,000 apartments and condominiums in the United States.

The Fair Housing Act Checklist App was developed as a part of the MHRP program and funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

For more information, please visit our website here.

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