SUMMARY OF THE HOUSING AUTHORITY OF BALTIMORE CITY
The Consent Decree requires the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) to make
substantial modifications to its public housing developments and administrative offices to make
them more accessible for persons with physical disabilities. In addition, the Decree mandates
that HABC create 1850 new housing opportunities for non-elderly persons with disabilities,
make various changes to its policies and practices to eliminate barriers for persons with
disabilities, and conduct fair housing training for its employees. The Consent Decree enjoins
(prohibits) HABC from violating Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Fair Housing Act in the future, and requires the
Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) to create a $1 million victim fund for potential
claimants and pay $39,000 in monetary damages to the named plaintiffs.
The Consent Decree, once approved by the Court, will resolve two different lawsuits-one
filed against HABC by the United States, and one filed by a group of individuals with disabilities
who are represented by the Maryland Disability Law Center. Agreement on the terms of the
consent decree was reached through mediation conducted by U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan
1. Improved Physical Accessibility of HABC's Public Housing and its Administrative Offices
- Public Housing Units
Over the next six (6) years, HABC must make available 755 public housing units that are
fully accessible for persons who use wheelchairs or have other mobility impairments. These
units must comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). At least thirty
(30) of these units must be "scattered site" units, located in different neighborhoods around
Baltimore (apart from other public housing), and sixty (60) or more must be created in newly
constructed housing. Two hundred twenty (220) of these public housing units must be available
for occupancy within one (1) year of the date the Court approved the settlement. HABC is also
required to improve the accessibility of an additional 75 units for use by persons who have
physical disabilities but who do not use wheelchairs.
The needs of current public housing residents who require accessible units due to a
disability but are living in units that are not fully accessible will be addressed under a new
"Immediate Needs Plan" agreed upon by the parties to the lawsuit. When a resident indicates he
or she has an "immediate need" for accessible features in his or her housing unit, HABC must
send a team to meet with the resident within ten (10) days. The team must devise and implement
an interim solution to meet the resident's needs until a fully accessible housing unit is available.
- Common Areas of Housing Developments
The Consent Decree also requires HABC to make the common areas in its housing
developments more accessible for persons with physical disabilities. HABC must hire an
architect to inspect common areas such as management offices, laundry rooms, recreational
facilities and public restrooms to ensure they are sufficiently accessible. Any necessary
modifications must be made within eighteen (18) months of approval of the Decree.
- HABC's Administrative Offices
HABC must also reduce barriers for persons with physical disabilities at it administrative
offices and must make a number of modifications to its offices at 417 East Fayette Street and
312 North Martin Luther King Boulevard to make them physically accessible. Such
modifications include, among others, reducing the slope of walkways, altering elevator controls,
modifying restrooms, and improving signage to allow use by persons with vision impairments.
Most of the modifications must be made by Fall, 2004, and others by January 2005. HABC
plans to move its operations currently handled at 300 Cathedral Street to another location and
must do so within nine (9) months. HABC must make temporary modifications to make the
Cathedral Street building more usable by persons with disabilities until HABC moves its
operations to the new location.
- Properties Constructed After 1991
The Consent Decree also requires HABC to make any necessary modifications to bring
all of its public housing developments that were constructed after 1991 into compliance with
Section 504 and the federal Fair Housing Act. Within one hundred twenty (120) days of
approval of the Decree, HABC must survey the properties and identify all existing violations.
2. Creation of New Housing Opportunities for Non-Elderly Persons with Disabilities
As a remedy for its alleged past unlawful exclusion of non-elderly persons with
disabilities from certain HABC public housing developments, HABC must create 1850 new
housing opportunities for non-elderly persons with disabilities in Baltimore. It will create these
opportunities by making available 1350 Section 8 rental subsidy vouchers (850 tenant-based
rental subsidy vouchers and 500 project-based subsidies) and an additional 500 opportunities
will be made available in public housing by designating units in the family developments
specifically for non-elderly persons with disabilities. HABC must also establish an "Enhanced
Leasing Assistance Program," through which it will provide specialized assistance to recipients
of the designated rental subsidy vouchers. HABC will provide recipients with assistance in
completing the application process to obtain a rental subsidy from HABC, and in identifying and
leasing a private apartment using the subsidy. HABC will also administer a fund of $500,000
(with monies to be provided by the City of Baltimore) to provide financial assistance to persons
who make physical modifications to privately-owned apartments that are necessary because of a
physical disability. HABC must also provide funds for application fees, security deposits, and
utility hook-up fees for participants in the Enhanced Leasing Assistance Program.
In addition, through a separate settlement agreement with the private plaintiffs, the City
of Baltimore has agreed to take various steps to encourage the creation of privately owned
housing units in Baltimore that are designated for non-elderly persons with disabilities.
HABC must also take various steps to publicize the fact that non-elderly persons with
disabilities, in addition to seniors, are eligible for admission to certain public housing
3. Implementation of Improved Procedures for Responding to Requests for
With respect to HABC's "Reasonable Accommodations" procedures, which are the
procedures for responding to requests from individuals with disabilities for changes in HABC
rules, policies, practices, or requests for structural modifications to public housing units, that
such persons need as a result of a disability, HABC must take steps to continue to publicize its
Reasonable Accommodations policy; continue to implement procedures to keep information
about participants' and applicants' disabilities confidential; train its staff on the policy and
procedures to responding to requests; and maintain better records of requests received and
HABC's responses to them.
4. Implementation of Improved Procedures in Section 8 Rental Subsidy Program
Within six (6) months of the approval of the Decree, HABC must hold a mandatory
meeting with owners or managers of properties that have received Low Income Housing Tax
Credits or certain types of federal funds to inform them of their obligations with respect to
HABC's Section 8 rental assistance program, including their obligation to accept tenants who
have received Section 8 rental subsidy vouchers. HABC must also survey landlords who
participate in the Section 8 Program to identify apartments that have accessible features suitable
for persons with physical disabilities. In addition, the Consent Decree requires HABC to
continue to provide recipients of Section 8 rental subsidy vouchers with property listings that list
privately-owned apartments in the Baltimore area that are available for rent by Section 8 voucher
holders. For participants with disabilities, HABC must provide assistance with making
appointments and access to free phones and local newspapers. HABC must also continue to
provide Section 8 program participants with disabilities with extensions of the deadline by which
they must use their subsidy vouchers to rent privately-owned housing, and, in some cases,
provide a higher level of rental subsidy to enable persons with physical disabilities to rent
5. Fair Housing Training
HABC is required to provide training for its managers, Board members, and most of its
employees about federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on disability and about the
requirements of the Consent Decree. HABC must hire an outside organization to conduct
training sessions, and the majority of its employees must be trained within the next six (6)
months. Within the next year HABC must also provide more specialized training for designated
employees, based on their job responsibilities.
6. General Non-Discrimination Provisions and Effective Communications
The Consent Decree generally prohibits HABC from (1) discriminating on the basis of
disability; (2) denying housing, making housing unavailable, or discriminating in the terms or
conditions of housing based on disability; (3) failing to provide adequate access for persons with
disabilities to HABC programs; (4) failing to consider and respond appropriately to requests for
reasonable accommodations made by applicants or participants with disabilities in its housing
programs; (5) violating federal statutes that prohibit restricting housing choices in a way that
perpetuates segregation of housing for persons with disabilities, (6) limiting eligibility for any
newly constructed public housing unit to elderly persons only, and (7) interfering with any
person in the exercise of his or her fair housing rights.
In addition, HABC is required to implement procedures to ensure that persons with
disabilities, including hearing and vision impairments, can effectively communicate with
representatives of the Housing Authority.
7. Monetary Damages
Within twenty (20) days of the date on which the Consent Decree is approved by the
Court, HABC must create a $1,000,000 settlement fund to compensate individuals who establish
that they were victims of past discriminatory practices by HABC. HABC will hire a Claims
Administration firm to gather and assess claims from persons who believe they are victims of
HABC's discrimination and wish to receive money damages. HABC must publicize the
existence of the claim fund and opportunity to seek money damages. Interested persons will
have six (6) months to submit their claims.
HABC must also pay a total of $39,000 in money damages to three (3) individuals with
disabilities who were part of the private lawsuit filed against HABC. Two of these individuals
will also receive Section 8 rental subsidy vouchers that they can use to rent private apartments in
In addition, HABC must pay $300,000 in attorneys' fees to the Maryland Disability Law
8. Length of the Consent Decree
The majority of the provisions in the Consent Decree will last for six (6) years. Certain
select provisions, in particular those that pertain to creation of physically accessible units or new
housing opportunities in housing that is not yet constructed, will last for ten (10) years.
In order to monitor HABC's compliance with the Consent Decree, the United States and
private plaintiffs will receive reports every three (3) months for the first two (2) years of the
Decree and every six (6) months during subsequent years. The reports will outline all steps that
HABC has taken during that time period to comply with the Decree and will provide factual and
statistical information on a number of issues. In addition, as required under the Decree, HABC
has appointed an internal compliance coordinator who is responsible for ensuring that the
Authority complies with its obligations.
The parties in the case will also meet on a quarterly basis for the first two (2) years of the
Decree and a semi-annual basis for the following three (3) years to discuss HABC's progress in
complying with the Decree.
Furthermore, the United States and private plaintiffs will have the right to review
relevant HABC records during the term of the Decree.
If HABC fails to comply with the terms of the Decree, the United States and Private
Plaintiffs have the right to ask a judge in the United States District Court for the District of
Maryland to force the Housing Authority to comply.