Paying for Reasonable Modifications
Q We manage a tax credit site that gets funding through the HOME program. A resident with disabilities recently asked us to install a ramp at the entrance to our site's community room so that he can access it using his wheelchair. We want the resident to pay for the ramp, but he's insisting that we're responsible for its cost because the community room is part of our site's common area. Must we pay to install the ramp?
A Yes. If it were just a matter of Fair Housing Act compliance, the resident would have to pay for the reasonable modification he requested, whether it was to his unit or, as in this case, to your site's common or public-use areas. But because your tax credit site gets federal funding through the HOME program, you must also comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 bans disability-based discrimination in any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance from any federal agency (including HUD) or in any programs conducted by federal agencies. Participation in the tax credit program alone doesn’t mean that a site gets federal assistance. But if a tax credit site is also financed under, say, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) or the Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME), Section 504 applies to your site. Section 504 also applies to tax credit and market-rate sites that participate in project-based Section 8, Section 202, and those sites that receive direct funding through the Tax Credit Assistance Program (TCAP) or the LIHTC Exchange.
Owners of sites covered by Section 504 must make reasonable modifications at their own expense unless they can show financial hardship. Here are other Section 504 requirements you should know:
- At least 5 percent of your units (or one unit, whichever is greater) generally must be accessible to residents with mobility impairments, and at least 2 percent of your units must be accessible to residents with hearing or vision impairments;
- You must furnish appropriate auxiliary aids needed to give residents with disabilities an equal opportunity to enjoy their housing; and
- You must choose at least one employee at your site to coordinate compliance with Section 504 (if your site has at least 15 employees).