Subsidized disability housing and children

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Parents living in disability/senior subsidized housing complexes are often told children are not allowed.  However, these statements violate the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 and US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidance and rules.

In many instances, a single parent with a child, or a couple with a very small child can continue to reside in small subsidized apartments.

The Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) states, “[I]t shall be unlawful to refuse to sell or rent …, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of … familial status.” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a).

Familial status means discrimination against any person under the age of 18 who is living with (or planning to live with) a parent, guardian or other individual with the parent or guardian’s written permission.  See 42 U.S.C. § 3602(k).

In addition to the discrimination prohibitions in the Fair Housing Act,  the Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) Handbook 4350.3 2-23(D)(3), “Occupancy Requirements of Subsidized Multifamily Housing Programs” states: “Owners may not exclude otherwise eligible elderly families with children from elderly properties or elderly/disabled properties covered by this handbook.”

If a parent qualifies for housing in elderly/disabled housing, then the building cannot prevent the parent from renting in the building because the parent has a child, as long as the family can meet occupancy standards.

Occupancy standards are the non-discriminatory limits on the number of people who can reside in a unit.

The typical rule of thumb for occupancy standards are two people per bedroom.   In other words, in a one-bedroom unit, a single parent and one child should always be permitted.    If the unit is particularly large, particularly with a large bedroom and living room, it may be reasonable for the housing provider to allow three people to live in the unit.

In no circumstances should a family with children be prohibited from a unit when a family of the same size without children would be permitted.  (e.g. a married couple and live-in aide is permitted in the building, a family with one parent and two children must be allowed.)

If you believe your rights have been violated, you can file a complaint with HUD, or the Colorado Civil-Rights Division.


© 2011 The Center for Rights of Parents with Disabilities .  Reprint only with permission.