Accessibility requirements include details such as step-free entrances and bathrooms wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.
The parties will hold a hearing on January 14 before a magistrate on the lawsuit filed by Access Living in 2018.
According to Access Living’s press release, during the discovery phase, “the city inspects completed buildings prior to issuing residency permits to ensure units comply with federal accessibility requirements.” The Department of Housing regularly inspects existing buildings, but “does not verify that buildings comply with federal accessibility requirements,” the report said. not”.
Kristen Cabamban, spokesperson for the City of Chicago Legal Department, said the city would not comment on the ongoing lawsuit.
According to Access Living, since 1988 the city has received more than $2 billion in federal funding for housing and community development, all of which require units that ensure access for people with disabilities. Access Living claims the city has ignored these provisions for “34 years,” Feidt said.
Disability advocates find the city’s resistance “very frustrating,” Feidt said.
Under Mayor Lori Lightfoot, city hall has made building affordable housing a central goal. “The government seems to really care about affordable housing,” says Feidt.
Access Living found that the city has spent about $4 million in private law firms defending the lawsuit since June 2018. That’s more than double the funding the Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities Accessibility Compliance Unit received in the same period, she said. .
Accessible housing is “basic for some people,” says Feidt. “If they don’t have stable housing[to move in and out of]they can’t fend for themselves and they can’t get jobs.”
Access Living attorneys sent inspectors to inspect approximately 96 affordable homes. Feidt said many of the units do not comply with accessibility guidelines, but did not provide exact figures.
The lack of accessibility imposes extreme restrictions, according to declarations filed in a 2018 lawsuit by Cathleen, a Chicago citizen who uses a wheelchair or walker for mobility. While looking for an apartment in 2017, she said after “hundreds of hours of searching” she found only two fully accessible and affordable apartments for her, only one of which was accessible. It was near the CTA station.
Kathleen said some affordable apartments didn’t have space to park a mechanical chair and bathrooms were too small to turn around.
“Without these very basic elements of accessibility, those apartments would have been virtually inaccessible to me,” Kathleen said.
Feidt said at least 500 of the city’s affordable residential buildings are covered by the federal housing law, and at least 5 percent of buildings with five or more units must meet uniform federal accessibility standards. . Bathing and other activities suitable for people with disabilities.
At Access Living, “accessible housing is our most in-demand service,” said Feidt, who has worked for the organization for 23 years. The group receives at least 100 calls a month from people with disabilities looking for affordable housing, she said, and “we can help a very small percentage of them.”
People who cannot find accessible housing and live in spaces that are not adapted to their accessibility needs are “more likely to be disabled” because of falls and other problems the space presents them with. It might be.