May 21, 2013
Shaun Donovan, Secretary
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 Seventh Street, SW
Washington DC 20410
Dear Secretary Donovan:
I write on behalf of the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency charged with advising Congress and the executive branch on disability policy, to urge you to act swiftly in issuing guidance on complying with the Supreme Court’s Olmstead v. L.C, 527 U.S. 581 (1999) decision to HUD programs and grantees.
As you are aware, the Supreme Court held in Olmstead that unnecessary institutionalization constitutes discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Consequently, NCD has assiduously worked with our partners in the federal government to advance the cause of community integration for people with disabilities. In the Council’s 2003 report Olmstead: Reclaiming Institutionalized Lives, NCD in finding that “[f]or people with disabilities, housing is the single biggest barrier to community integration and to Olmstead implementation,” recommended that HUD “work to simplify other aspects of federal housing programs, and support focused advocacy and service brokerage for people with disabilities to access federally supported housing programs.” In the Council’s 2008 report Inclusive Livable Communities for People with Psychiatric Disabilities, NCD called for “shifting from congregate settings to individual, scattered-site houses and apartments in which people are general tenants.” In its 2012 statutorily mandated report to Congress National Disability Policy: A Progress Report, the NCD recommended that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services define community living “utilizing a definition that excludes gated communities, segregated farmsteads, clusters of group homes, settings that restrict personal choice and control, and other settings with the characteristics of an institution.” NCD continues to advance these recommendations as critical to HUD as it progresses with its policy implementation of Olmstead.
As the de-institutionalization process has continued to shift away from large, state-run facilities, the issue of affordable and accessible housing has been a key challenge for policymakers working to bring state service-provision systems into compliance with Olmstead. The lack of availability of affordable housing options has stalled progress in meeting the requirements of Olmstead as States move and provide support for people with disabilities from provider-owned housing to their own homes or scattered-site housing and apartments in which people with disabilities enjoy the same rights of tenancy as any other individual. As a result, NCD believes that it is crucial that HUD promptly issue guidance to recipients of HUD funds on meeting the obligations of Olmstead and the integration mandate of the ADA. We urge you to incorporate the principles of Olmstead and the ADA’s integration mandate across the broad scope of HUD’s programs and activities.
NCD stands ready to support HUD’s efforts. Please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time.
Cc: Maurice Jones, Deputy Secretary
Jennifer Ho, Senior Advisor to the Secretary