HUD, Philadelphia Housing Authority Sign Agreement to Make More Accessible Housing Available

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorPhiladelphia—The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) have signed an agreement that the PHA will certify 760 accessible housing units, or 5 percent of its housing stock, by 2013.In exchange, the PHA will continue to operate under HUD’s “Moving to Work” (MTW) program, which allows housing authorities to promote self-sufficiency among families receiving HUD assistance and increases housing choices among low-income households, for the next 10 years.“It’s a win-win for the people of Philadelphia,” says Jerry Brown, public affairs officer for HUD. “One of the concerns is that Philadelphia is a “Moving to Work” housing authority, which gives it a great deal of flexibility of how it spends its funds.”The agreement comes after a year-long dispute between the two organizations, in which HUD alleged that the PHA’s accessible homes did not meet the government’s new standards and would not provide funds to the authority until it agreed to implement certain practices. This assertion followed the PHA’s claim that HUD was acting in retaliation against the housing authority for refusing to turn land over to a private developer.The agreement includes 152 accessible housing units by the end of 2008, followed by the same number for the next five years. Under the agreement, the PHA must ensure that accessible housing is geographically dispersed, provide a range of bedroom sizes, and maximize utilization of units by disabled individuals and their families.In general, disability-related fair housing complaints are at a record-high, says Brown, which he believes is partly a result of HUD’s education, making residents aware of their rights.