Too often, as states attempt to comply with Olmstead settlement agreements, including those with the U.S. Department of Justice, and as they attempt to comply with Olmstead more broadly, they are confronted with stocks of HUD-financed housing that is in buildings designated exclusively or primarily for people with disabilities. Opportunities for people with disabilities to access mainstream living arrangements such as scattered-site housing are few and far between.
Having guidance concerning Olmstead’s application to HUD-financed housing would be extremely useful in promoting awareness of the legal obligations of HUD funding recipients, facilitating states’ compliance with Olmstead, and ensuring that people with disabilities have opportunities to live in their own homes.
In addition, the letter states:
In practice, virtually every “Olmstead preference” that targets housing resources to people with disabilities exiting or at risk of entry into institutions will involve targeting resources to groups of individuals with a particular type of disability, since the state and local disability service systems that engage in Olmstead implementation are organized by type of disability. HUD should therefore clarify that: (1) tenant selection preferences adopted by HUD’s network of state and local housing agencies/housing providers to assist state and local disability service systems with the implementation of Olmstead are permissible even if, due to priorities established by state and local disability service systems, they in practice assist a group of people with the same type of disability; and (2) such preferences must not be limited to one group of people with the same type of disability when other groups of people with other types of disabilities are also included in the state’s or locality’s implementation of Olmstead. If HUD continues to require such Olmstead-related tenant selection preferences to go through an approval process, it should provide for expedited approval of such preferences.
In sum, guidance from HUD concerning Olmstead’s application to HUD-financed housing is essential to promoting awareness among HUD funding recipients of their Olmstead obligations, to enforcing compliance with those obligations, and to ensuring that people with disabilities have opportunities to live in their own homes and communities.