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Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988
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FAIR HOUSING AMENDMENTS ACT OF 1988

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION REQUIREMENTS

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 outlines design and construction requirements for covered multi-family dwellings for first occupancy after March 13, 1991. “Covered multi-family dwellings” means buildings consisting of four or more dwelling units if such buildings have one or more elevators; and ground floor dwelling units in other buildings consisting of four or more dwelling units. The Fair Housing Amendments Act applies to the public use areas, the common use areas, and the individual apartments at a housing facility, regardless of whether it is privately or publicly owned. This includes housing subsidized by the federal government or rented through the use of Section 8 voucher assistance.

The Act provides that covered multi-family dwellings for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 shall be designed and constructed to have at least one building entrance on an accessible route unless it is impractical to do so because of the terrain or unusual characteristics of the site. The burden of establishing impracticality because of terrain or unusual site characteristics is on the person or persons who designed or constructed the housing facility.

“Building entrance on an accessible route” means an accessible entrance to a building that is connected by an accessible route to public transportation stops, to accessible parking and passenger loading zones, or to public streets or sidewalks, if available.

A covered multi-family dwelling shall be deemed to be designed and constructed for first occupancy on or before March 13, 1991 if they are occupied by that date or if the last building permit or renewal thereof for the covered multi-family dwellings is issued by a State, County, or local government on or before January 13, 1990.

The Fair Housing Act requires that all covered multi-family dwellings for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, with a building entrance on an accessible route shall be designed and constructed in such a manner that—:

  1. the public and common use areas must be readily accessible to and usable by handicapped persons;
  2. all the doors designed to allow passage into and within all premises must be sufficiently wide to allow passage by handicapped persons in wheelchairs; and
  3. all premises within covered multi-family dwelling units contain the following features of adaptable design:
  1. an accessible route into and through the covered dwelling unit
  2. light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other environmental controls in accessible locations
  3. reinforcements in bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars around the toilet, tub, shower, stall and shower seat, where such facilities are provided
  4. usable kitchens and bathrooms such that an individual in a wheelchair can maneuver about the space.

 

 

 

 

 

“Public use areas” means interior or exterior rooms or spaces of a building that are made available to the general public. Public use may be provided at a building that is privately or publicly owned. “Common use areas” means rooms, spaces, or elements inside or outside of a building that are made available for the use of residents of a building or their guests. These areas include hallways, lounges, lobbies, laundry rooms, refuse rooms, mail rooms, recreational areas, and passageways among and between buildings.

“Accessible,” when used with respect to the public and common use areas of a building containing covered multi-family dwellings, means that the public or common use areas of the building can be approached, entered, and used by individuals with physical disabilities. “Accessible route” means a continuous unobstructed path connecting accessible elements and spaces in a building or within a site that can be negotiated by a person with a severe disability using a wheelchair and that is also safe for and usable by people with other disabilities. Interior accessible routes may include corridors, floors, ramps, elevators, and lifts. Exterior accessible routes may include parking access aisles, curb ramps, walks, ramps, and lifts.
 

NOTE:

This directory provides general accessibility guidelines taken from HUD’s Fair Housing Act Design Manual for compliance with the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction requirements. However, the accessibility guidelines vary depending on the design and layout of a particular dwelling unit, such as the shape of the kitchen, etc. Therefore, for complete and accurate information about compliance with the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction requirements or HUD’s accessibility guidelines, please contact your local HUD office.

According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines, an accessible route must be provided into and throughout the entire covered dwelling unit. The accessible route must pass through the main entry door, continue through all rooms in the unit, adjoin required clear floor spaces at all kitchen appliances and all bathroom fixtures, and connect with secondary exterior doors. Accessible doors in public and common use spaces and primary entry doors of dwelling units must provide a clear opening of 32 inches minimum.

Within individual dwelling units, doors intended for user passage through the unit must have a clear opening of at least 32 inches nominal width. This measurement is taken when the door is open 90 degrees, measured between the face of the door and the latch side jamb/stop. A minimum clear width of 36 inches is required for accessible routes into and through dwelling units. Thresholds at a unit’s exterior doors, including sliding door tracks, shall be no higher than ¾ inch. Within single-story dwelling units (and on the primary entry level of multi-story dwelling units in buildings with elevators) the maximum vertical floor level change is ¼ inch and the threshold must be beveled or tapered. When a tapered threshold is used, the maximum height is ½ inch. If an interior door threshold represents a change in level greater than ½ inch, it must be ramped. Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other environmental controls should be located no higher than 48 inches and no lower than 15 inches above the floor. Controls or outlets that do not satisfy these specifications are acceptable provided that comparable controls or outlets (i.e., that perform the same functions) are provided within the same area and are accessible.

In kitchens, appliances must be located so they can be used by a person in a wheelchair. A 30-inch x 48-inch clear floor space is required for a parallel or forward approach to each kitchen appliance or fixture. A minimum of 40 inches of clear floor space is required between all opposing base cabinets, countertops, appliances, and walls. This measurement is taken from any countertop or the face of any appliance (excluding handles and controls) that projects into the kitchen to the opposing cabinet, countertop, appliance, or wall. Kitchens with a U-shaped design that have a sink, range, or cooktop at its base, must have a 60-inch diameter turning circle in order to provide adequate maneuvering space for a person using a wheelchair to approach and position themselves parallel to the appliance or fixture at the base of the U. An exception is permitted in U-shaped kitchens with a sink or cooktop at the base of the U to have less then 60 inches between the legs of the U only when removable base cabinets are provided under the cooktop or sink. A clearance of at least 40 inches is required.

In bathrooms, there must be adequate maneuvering space so that a person who uses a wheelchair or scooter can easily enter, close the door, use the fixtures, and exit. The HUD Accessibility Guidelines provide two sets of specifications for usable bathrooms: Option A and Option B. Both Option A and Option B require a 30-inch x 48-inch clear floor space outside the swing of the door as it is closed. For more information about the accessibility requirements for Option A or Option B, please refer to the Fair Housing Act Design Manual, contact your local HUD office, consult with an Accessibility Consultant or Expert, or contact the Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio.
 

NOTE:

Many apartment complexes that were built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, do not meet all of the accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988. If the apartment complex is not in compliance with the accessibility requirements, the owner of the complex must pay for any modifications that a tenant requests in order to bring the complex into compliance. Furthermore, if the tenant lives at an apartment complex that receives federal funds, the tenant can, in most cases, request that the owner of the apartment complex pay for the modifications, as an accommodation to the tenant.

The Fair Housing Amendment Act’s accessibility requirements are not as strict as those for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). However, the Fair Housing Amendment Act’s accessibility requirements apply to a broader number of dwelling units. Where both the Fair Housing Amendment Act and Section 504 apply to a particular housing facility, the facility must be in compliance with both laws. In addition, the ADA, when it is applicable to areas of a housing facility, does not supersede Section 504 requirements (assuming Section 504 is also applicable) and does not invalidate or limit the remedies, rights, and procedures of any other Federal laws, or State or local laws that provide greater or equal protection for the rights of individuals with disabilities or individuals associated with them27.

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