RESPONSE & GUIDANCE TO SOMERVILLE DEPT. OF HOUSINGTo:           Paul Mackey, Director, Housing Division,              Dana...
OUTLINE OF RESPONSEI. Background:      A. SCC      Impression #1, SCC Requires Guidance Re: Overall Integration & Implemen...
I. BACKGROUNDOne must review the mission of SCC as well as the history of this particular project, tounderstand more fully...
At the very least, SCC should immediately create policies that further their goals in stepwith the current climate of acce...
1. Architectural Barriers Act, 1968 (buildings financed in whole or in part by the U.S. mustbe physically accessible for p...
including updating the kitchens and baths, replacing the exterior siding, and rebuilding thefront entryway. "         Disc...
or more units – both the units and the common areas of the             building must be accessible             2. Minimum ...
alterations, in addition to the applicable requirements of Section                 504 and the Fair Housing Act, whenever ...
the different types of disabilities, and presents a glossary of             terms. Part 2 presents a detailed, illustrated...
2. re: If alterations of single elements or spaces of a dwelling unit, when consideredtogether, amount to an alteration of...
9. re: 1) accessible building entrance on an accessible road; 2) accessibleand usable public and common use areas; 3) usab...
certain things are worth noting in this document:• Regardless whether the local inspector has approved the building or not...
participants.Of the Somerville residents with a disability between ages 16-64 years, 33.9% are employed; ascontrasted with...
Feldman to Somerville Community Corporation (SCC). November 2006
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Feldman to Somerville Community Corporation (SCC). November 2006

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Disability Rights and Fair Housing:
Eileen Feldman responds to City of Somerville and SCC. November 2006.

In fall, 2006, the City of Somerville contacted then-Disability Commission Chair Eileen Feldman regarding the Community Housing Development Organization's (CDHO) wish to request exemption from accessibility requirements for a substantial rehabilitation of a 6-unit development at 109 Gilman Street. They asked her to weigh in on supporting this request for an examption.

Instead, Eileen Feldman urged the City of Somerville and the Somerville Community Corporation to ensure maximum accessibility and to make the common areas and at least one of the 2 first-floor apartments accessible to current and future tenants of this HOME-funded project. In response, SCC informed Ms. Feldman that they would not be following this guidance, because, "it would be an administrative as well as a financial burden" to change their plans at this time.

(There were 2 alternate architectural plans drawn up to ensure that at least one unit would be accessible, as well as the common areas of this development. The extra cost for construction for one plan was $17,000; and other costed approximately double that.)

Eileen Feldman then responded to SCC's claims with this pro bono document, Response and Guidance to Somerville Department of Housing, written to the City of Somerville's Community Development office as well as the Somerville Community Corporation. She exhorted SCC and the City of Somerville to proactively address the numerous impediments to fair housing for people with disabilities in Somerville.

After receiving this document, SCC admitted that they could no longer argue that there was an administrative burden to creating at least one accessible unit, because of HUD's guidance regarding the need to plan for accessibility at the acquisition stage of developing such a project.

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Feldman to Somerville Community Corporation (SCC). November 2006

  1. 1. RESPONSE & GUIDANCE TO SOMERVILLE DEPT. OF HOUSINGTo: Paul Mackey, Director, Housing Division, Dana LeWinter, Special Projects Director, Evelyn Persoff, Housing Department SpecialistFrom: Somerville Disabilities Commission Chair E. FeldmanRE: 11/6/06 MEMORANDUM From Somerville Community Corporations (SCC) C.Koslow, Requesting Exemption From Accessibility Requirement for the 6-unit 109 Gilman Street Rehab. ProjectDATE: 11/13/06_________________________________________________________________________Thank you for giving me the opportunity to review and respond to the 4-page Memorandum,written by C. Koslow of the SCC, requesting exemption from the accessibility requirementsfor the 6-unit rehab. of 109 Gilman St.. I have not received the attachments noted in hermemorandum; however, at this time, I would not be commenting on the ArchitecturalDrawings without also going on a walk through of the site and with a building accessibilityspecialist.This review generated a number of questions and this document is meant to sincerely guidethe City to: 1. consider well the potential liabilities of accepting SCCs rationale as it stands;2. enhance its support of, and marketability to, people with disabilities; and 3. increase theoptions for SCCs programs relevant to accessibility at this time.Perhaps the most important question, at this time, for the City to determine is:In the event that a thorough examination of the conditions at 109 Gilman Street by aqualified Accessibility Specialist warrants the exemption of a wheelchair-accessibleunit in this location, do the programs of SCC, in their entirety, demonstrate acommitment to, and to the maximum extent feasible, the inclusion of people withdisabilities, as mandated by the Fair Housing Act, regulations of HUD, the ABA, andin the spirit of the ADA of 1990?
  2. 2. OUTLINE OF RESPONSEI. Background: A. SCC Impression #1, SCC Requires Guidance Re: Overall Integration & Implementation of Standards of Accessibility into Programs. B. SCC & Gilman street property Impression, #2: Planning of Gilman St. Project Failed to Acknowledge Access Regs by June, 2005.II. HUD, FHA Compliance: A. Reliance on documents Impression #3: With regard to Accessibility, SCCs "Reliance" on Regulations, etc. Lacks Timeliness and fails to acknowledge necessary details. B. 9 questions to answer Impression #4: SCCs Argument for Structural Accessibility Exemption Severely Weakened by Lack of Comprehensive Discussion regarding Projects Achievable Accessibility.III. Achievable? Accessible, Adaptable, and AdjustableIV. Notes re: A. Risks of noncompliance, Gains of Compliance; B. Meaningful awareness of the needs of people with disabilities; C. This writer and this document; D. a repeated plea to the City of Somerville.
  3. 3. I. BACKGROUNDOne must review the mission of SCC as well as the history of this particular project, tounderstand more fully how SCC has approached the issue of accessibility at 109 GilmanStreet. We must also review what those mandates are from the Federal, State and locallegislation, evolving regulations, codes, and ordinances as they apply not only to the GilmanStreet project, but also to SCC as a whole.A. SCCs Stated MissionFrom the Annual Report, 2005, "Strengthening Our Roots": " OUR MISSION STATEMENTSomerville Community Corporation (SCC) is a membership organization that providesleadership for sustaining the city of Somerville as a vibrant, diverse and tolerant community.We develop and preserve affordable housing. We offer services and lead communityorganizing that supports low and moderate-income Somerville residents in their efforts toachieve economic stability and increase civic participation."In the 11/06/06 memorandum, SCC claims that the "soft costs" of "2) hiring an accessibilityconsultant, which will become necessary to determine which of the state and federalaccessibility rules apply to this project" and "3) conducting a property line survey to ensurethat the necessary ramps fit within our property" and "4) additional architectural time" (p. 3,2nd paragraph under Financial Burden), "could add over $4,000 of additional costs" to theproject.Discussion:In the HUD Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse1 discussions of accessibility and the FairHousing Act, it is stated: " There is implicit recognition that all may not understand accessibility provisions in the Fair Housing Act."HUDs Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines clearly state: "Builders have been on notice since January 23, 1989 -- the publication date of the final Fair Housing rule, that undertaking construction after January 13, 1990 without adequate attention to accessibility considerations would be at the builders risk."SCCs arguments regarding "additional soft costs", as well as the overall "financialburden argument" show a lack of acknowledgement of the ongoing requirements foraccessibility, and a lack of commitment to the needs of people with disabilities. This isincompatible with the stated goals of SCC and utterly illogical for a company thatrehabilitates properties for the L/M housing market in partnership with Federal, State andlocal funds and resources.1 http://www.huduser.org/rbc/index.asp
  4. 4. At the very least, SCC should immediately create policies that further their goals in stepwith the current climate of accessibility awareness. In addition, they should retain anAccess Specialist on staff to guide them in compliance and the spirit of accessibility.They should also proactively take steps to ensure that their other projects are monitoredand adapted toward accessibility. And such "soft costs" should, instead, beinstitutionalized as normal and ongoing operational costs in their overall budget.Therefore,IMPRESSION #1, SCC Requires Guidance RE: Overall Integration &Implementation of Standards of Accessibility.B. Gilman Street ApartmentsFrom the SCC website(http://somervillecdc.org/housingdev/projects/index.shtml#bowstreet):"The Somerville Community Corporation purchased 109 Gilman Street, a 6-unit rentalbuilding in the Winter Hill neighborhood, in June 2005. The Gilman Street Apartments areall three-bedroom/one bath units with large kitchens and living/dining rooms. In fall 2006,SCC will begin a moderate rehab of the building, including updating the kitchens and baths,replacing the exterior siding, and rebuilding the front entryway.The development team for the Gilman Street Apartments includes Katharine MacPhail atdEmios Architects and Winn Residential Property Managers. Financing for the project isprovided by Central Bank, the City of Somerville, the Somerville Affordable Housing Trust,the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Housing and CommunityDevelopment, the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and the US Departmentof Housing and Community Development."In the 11/6 Memorandum, Ms. Koslow states, "As a result of receiving local HOME fundingfrom the City of Somerville, this project has triggered Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of1973." (p. 1, 2nd Para.).In addition, on page 4, SCC reasons an "Undue Administrative Burden", as follows: " As isthe nature of government subsidized affordable housing projects, there are manysources and much paper work already required to fund 109 Gilman Street. Currentlythere are two sources in the acquisition loan and five in the construction and permanentLoans. In order to cover the cost of the accessible unit, we will need to apply forAdditional funding, most likely through the state!s Department of Housing andCommunity Development. This additional time and paperwork required will create anadministrative burden and additional delay."Discussion:The acquisition of this property, using Federal, State and local funds, occurred in 2005. Byvirtue of that acquisition and its clear intent to develop the property, federal accessibility andCivil Rights legislation/regulations that were triggered at that time include2:2 Although the readers of this document are knowledgeable about these details, it is necessary to include them here forcompleteness sake.
  5. 5. 1. Architectural Barriers Act, 1968 (buildings financed in whole or in part by the U.S. mustbe physically accessible for people with disabilities).2. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 1973 as amended (ensuring that people withdisabilities will have the same opportunities in Federal programs as people withoutdisabilities).3. Fair Housing Act. FHA Accessibility Amendments enacted in 1988. (accessibility designregulations apply to buildings built, renovated, rehabilitated, etc. after March 13, 1991).4. Titles II & III of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 1990 (guarantees that all programs,regardless of funding, are made accessible to all persons, in the areas of employment,public accommodations, transportations, state and local programs, and communications).In addition, there are no less than 5 relevant Fair Housing Executive Orders3. In addition,HUD offers specific guidance on standard monitoring practices for property acquisition in theCPD Monitoring Handbook, Chapter 254 and also for Fair Housing and Equal OpportunityStandards, Chapter 22, once the property is made marketable.SCCs responsibility to conduct preliminary cost estimates for accessibility alterations and thesubsequent responsibility to create realistic architectural plans to include fullest possibleaccessibility began at the very imagining of this project, or at least by acquisition date, 2005-not at this time, as claimed in the 11/6 Memorandum.It seems that any delay caused by investigating, planning, and detailing the inclusion ofalternate and fullest possible accessibility features in the Gilman Street property beforebeginning the rehab must be considered, at this time, to be essential and necessarycomponents of the overall project, and should not be used to detail exclusionary or exemptionrationales with regards to accessibility requirements. If anything, the delay is caused bySCCs (and their funders) lack of alertness to HUDs and FHAs well-articulated policies andregulations regarding accessibility and lack of clear policies and procedures of compliancemonitoring.Therefore,Impression, #2, Planning of Gilman St. Project Failed to Acknowledge Access Regs byJune, 2005.II. HUD, FHA compliance, etc. A. Reliance on regulations, etc.SCC states in 11/6 Memorandum: "As we have discussed, HUD Notice CPD-05-09 issuedNovember 3, 2005, brought to our attention the need to evaluate whether 109 Gilman wasrequired to have an accessible unit upon rehabilitation."SCC states (from website): " In fall 2006, SCC will begin a moderate rehab of the building,3 SEE http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/FHLaws/index.cfm4 http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/library/monitoring/handbook.cfm#25ALSO SEE: http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/lawsregs/notices/2005/05-02.pdf
  6. 6. including updating the kitchens and baths, replacing the exterior siding, and rebuilding thefront entryway. " Discussion : SCC Memorandum Relies on HUD Notices and UFAS.SCC relies on certain HUD Notices and Federal Standards (UFAS) to support a rationale forexempting small (less than 15 unit) rehab projects from accessibility requirements. Theseare: HUD Notice CPD-05-09, the UFAS Section 4.1.6(3) and definition of "structuralimpracticability, and HUD Notice PIH 93-18.Since 2000, HUD has issued three Notices -- two from CPD and one from Housing-- to remind HOME and CDBG recipients of their obligation to comply with Section504 and other related laws. In 200O HUD issued CPD Notice 00-9; this wasextended in 20035. CPD Notice 05-09 reinforces those 2,Of these, SCC only incompletely references the 2005 CPD Notice 05-09. Theparagraph SCC refers to reads, in entirety (underlining added herein for relevanceto the discussions which follow): "Other alterations -- When other alterations that do not meet the regulatory definition of substantial alterations are undertaken in multifamily rental housing projects of any size, these alterations must, to the maximum extent feasible, make the dwelling units accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, until a minimum of 5 percent of the dwelling units (but not less than one unit) are accessible to people with mobility impairments, unless HUD prescribes a higher number pursuant to 24 CFR 8.23(b)(2). If alterations of single elements or spaces of a dwelling unit, when considered together, amount to an alteration of a dwelling unit, then the entire dwelling unit shall be made accessible. For this category of rehabilitation the additional 2 percent of the dwelling units requirement for individuals with sensory impairments does not apply. Alterations to common spaces must, to the maximum extent feasible, make those areas accessible. A recipient is not required to make a dwelling unit, common area, facility or element accessible, if doing so would impose undue financial and administrative burdens on the operation of the multifamily housing project (24 CFR 8.23(b)). Therefore, with regards to covered alterations, recipients are only required to provide access up to the point of being an undue financial and administrative burden."Further, from CPD Notices of 2003 and 2005, re Section 504: "New [FY03] Construction Requirements from 24CFR 8.22(a): 1. Any multifamily rental new construction housing containing 55 http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/lawsregs/notices/2003/03-13.pdf
  7. 7. or more units – both the units and the common areas of the building must be accessible 2. Minimum of 5%, but at least one unit, must be accessible to the mobility impaired 3. Additional 2% of the units must be accessible to those with sensory impairments unless HUD requires a higher number per 24CFR 8.22(c)."Regarding the confusion around the many accessibility standards, all 3Notices state: " Accessibility Standards Dwelling units designed and constructed in accordance with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) will be deemed to comply with the Section 504 regulation. For copies of UFAS, contact the HUD Distribution Center at 1-800-767-7468; hearing or speech-impaired persons may access this number via TTY by calling the Federal Information Relay Service at 1- 800-877- 8339. Accessible units must be, to the maximum extent feasible, distributed throughout the projects and sites, and must be available in a sufficient range of sizes and amenities so as not to limit choice."plus: "It must be noted that, in many cases, new construction of rental projects funded in the HOME/CDBG Programs must meet both the Fair Housing Act and the Section 504 new construction requirements. Where two or more accessibility standards apply, the housing provider is required to follow and apply both standards, so that maximum accessibility is obtained."In addition, these CPD Notices emphasize the practicability and value of utilizing Principlesof Universal Design, as well as Visitability principles. Regarding Visitabilityrecommendations: "Visitability Although not a requirement, it is recommended that all design, construction and alterations incorporate, whenever practical, the concept of Visitability in addition to the requirements under Section 504 and the Fair Housing Act. Visitability is a design concept, which for very little or no additional cost enables persons with disabilities to visit relatives, friends, and neighbors in their homes within a community. Design Considerations Visitability design incorporates the following in all construction or
  8. 8. alterations, in addition to the applicable requirements of Section 504 and the Fair Housing Act, whenever practical and possible for as many units as possible within a development: • Provide a 32" clear opening in all bathroom and interior doorways. • Provide at least one accessible means of egress/ingress for each unit. Benefits Visitability also expands the availability of housing options for individuals who may not require full accessibility. It will assist project owners in making reasonable accommodations and reduce, in some cases, the need for structural modifications or transfers when individuals become disabled in place. Visitability will also improve the marketability of units. Further information regarding the concept of visitability may be obtained through the HUD web page (http://www.huduser.org/publications/pubasst/strategies.html).In addition, these Notices consistently state the importance of updated Self-Evaluations: "The Notice also recommends that recipients conduct updated self evaluations as a useful tool for enhancing efforts to comply with accessibility requirements in HOME/CDBG programs, as well as to document those efforts. "As for Principles of Universal Design, the Fair Housing Manual was authoredin 1996 (recently republished6) by the genius architect, Ron Mace, himself awheelchair user. This Manual is referenced at the HUD User PolicyDevelopment and Research Information Service, which describes its essentialpoints as follows: "The Fair Housing Design Manual provides comprehensive information and guidance for meeting accessibility provisions required in the design and construction of multifamily housing covered by the Fair Housing Act. The manual explains the application of HUDs Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines to all aspects of multifamily housing projects, referencing the 1986 ANSI A117.1 American National Standard for Buildings and Facilities. The introduction contains an overview of the Act and the types of buildings/dwellings that it covers, outlines other laws and standards that regulate accessible design, briefly discusses6 To order "Fair Housing Act Design Manual", visit the HUD USER website atwww.huduser.org/publications/destech/fairhousing.html. For people who have the 1996 edition, updated pages are free ofcharge and are available for ordering online.
  9. 9. the different types of disabilities, and presents a glossary of terms. Part 2 presents a detailed, illustrated explanation of the seven requirements of the guidelines. These include: 1) accessible building entrance on an accessible road; 2) accessible and usable public and common use areas; 3) usable doors; 4) accessible route into and through the covered unit; 5) light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other environmental controls in accessible locations; 6) reinforced walls for grab bars; and 7) usable kitchens and bathrooms. There are three appendices."Summary, Reliance on Regs. Rationale for Exemption:As is noted above, the HUD Notices of 2000 (issued December 26, 2000) and 2003 (issuedNovember 23, 2003), also were written for the express purpose "to remind recipients ofFederal funds for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) or the CommunityDevelopment Block Grant (CDBG) Program of their obligation to comply with Section 504 ofthe Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Fair Housing Act, and HUDs implementing Regulations(24 CFR Parts 8 and 100, respectively), which prohibit discrimination based on disability andestablish requirements for program accessibility and physical accessibility in connection withhousing programs."It seems that SCC should have been alert to these Notices by the time of theWalnut Street Apartments as well as the Linden Street Apartments rehabs, andplanned all subsequent rehabs accordingly. In addition, the Bow Streetapartments and the Sewall Place project may not be in minimal compliance, either.Therefore,IMPRESSION #3, With regard to Accessibility, SCCs "Reliance" onRegulations, etc. lacks timeliness and fails to acknowledge necessarydetails. B. Nine Questions that SCC should have answered in theirMemorandumSCC states: " In fall 2006, SCC will begin a moderate rehab of the building,including updating the kitchens and baths, replacing the exterior siding, andrebuilding the front entryway. "Regardless of whether this is a moderate or substantial rehabilitation of the property, SCCfails to provide details in this Memorandum, which would show appropriate and thoroughattention to the following questions:1. re: to the maximum extent feasible, make the dwelling units accessible to and usable byindividuals with disabilitiesHow has SCC ensured that accessibility is integrated into the project to the maximumextent possible?
  10. 10. 2. re: If alterations of single elements or spaces of a dwelling unit, when consideredtogether, amount to an alteration of a dwelling unit, then the entire dwelling unit shall bemade accessible.How will SCC increase accessibility when updating the kitchens and baths?3. re: and the common areas of the building must be accessibleWhat are the common areas (both interior and exterior) and how are theybeing made accessible?4. re: Additional 2% of the units must be accessible to those with sensoryimpairmentsWhat percent and how will 109 Gilman Street be made accessible topeople who are visually and/or hearing impaired, or have other sensoryimpairments?5. re: Accessible units must be, to the maximum extent feasible, distributedthroughout the projects and sites, and must be available in a sufficient rangeof sizes and amenities so as not to limit choice."In the event that a thorough examination of the conditions at 109 Gilman Street by aqualified Accessibility Specialist warrants the exemption of a fully mobility-accessible unit in this location, do the programs of SCC, in their entirety,demonstrate a commitment to, and to the maximum extent feasible, the inclusion ofpeople with disabilities, as mandated by the Fair Housing Act, regulations of HUD, theABA, and in the spirit of the ADA of 1990?6. re: must meet both the Fair Housing Act and the Section 504 newconstruction requirements. Where two or more accessibility standards apply,the housing provider is required to follow and apply both standards, so thatmaximum accessibility is obtained."Are Scoping and Technical Requirements being relied upon inconjunction with the Fair Housing Act and HUDs regulations, and theGuidelines? Which of the (seven)" Safe Harbor" documents has SCC adopted for itsanalysis of the accessibility challenges of Gilman Street- and for all theirprojects?7. re: Visitability In fall 2006, SCC will begin a moderate rehab of the building, includingupdating the kitchens and baths, replacing the exterior siding, and rebuilding the frontentryway.Will the front entryway be modified to achieve ground level visitability?8. re: The Notice also recommends that recipients conduct updated selfevaluations as a useful tool for enhancing efforts to comply with accessibilityrequirements in HOME/CDBG programs, as well as to document those efforts.When was the last Self Evaluation (per ADA administrative mandates)conducted by SCC (with its partners), and where is that documented, forreview? Are policies for the next Self Evaluation -and resultant transitionplan, in place?
  11. 11. 9. re: 1) accessible building entrance on an accessible road; 2) accessibleand usable public and common use areas; 3) usable doors; 4) accessibleroute into and through the covered unit; 5) light switches, electrical outlets,thermostats, and other environmental controls in accessible locations; 6)reinforced walls for grab bars; and 7) usable kitchens and bathrooms.These are also listed on the Citys Website. How many of theseminimum accessibility requirements are currently planned for, and howwill SCC increase the achievability of each of these items, with the 109Gilman rehab?Therefore,Impression #4: SCCs Argument for Exemption Severely Weakened byLack of Comprehensive Discussion regarding achievable Accessibility.III. Achievable? Accessible, Adaptable and AdjustableSCC and its partners need to acquaint themselves with the above conceptsand discover achievable goals for 109 Gilman Street as well as take aproactive (leadership) stance regarding projects that are currently considered"finished."While it is true that accessibility can cost "extra" money, these costs areclearly recovered by the enhanced marketability of the product. In this dayand age, the concept of accessibility should be well integrated into allstructural planning, as well as all public programs, activities, etc. at anycompany and local level.If, indeed, a qualified Access Specialist does deem the structuralenhancements to achieve fullest mobility access to be an undue hardship forthe project at Gilman Street at this time, there are still various options for SCCto include in the building plans before actual rehab work begins, which willprovide people with various types of disabilities the opportunity to consider thishousing.For example, in the rehabs of the kitchens, adjustable heights would be afeature of shelves, cupboards, etc. SCC should pay someone to help themconsider these options. An excellent idea would be to hire a consumer ofproducts for people with disabilities, and then retain that person on their staff.This person might provide research capabilities, as well as "on the street"guidance. This would certainly help SCC distinguish themselves as a leader intheir industry.IV. SOME NOTES: A. Risks of noncompliance, Gains of Compliance;I do not presume to know the Citys risk. Although my readers are well aware,
  12. 12. certain things are worth noting in this document:• Regardless whether the local inspector has approved the building or not, inthe event of a complaint, HUD has statutory responsibility to conduct aninvestigation.• If a building that is covered by the FHAct accessible design and constructionrequirements was not built in compliance with those requirements, and a tenant asks formodifications that would bring the unit into compliance with the Act, the owner is responsiblefor paying for those modifications if the owner was involved in the design and/orconstruction of the building• If violations are found, the liability would spread to the City, the architects,builders, developers, and others.• Costs to correct violations can be quite high.• If violations are found, the project will have reduced revenue.• Compliance demands could expand to the entire site, including parking(very difficult to retrofit!).• Inaccessibility risks include injury lawsuits..The most important risk- the bottom line for responsible companies- is thatCivil Rights are violated.On the other hand,• Housing projects which are accessible are also sustainable.• "They meet the needs of an aging population", who can "age in place."• Grab bars, wider doorways,etc. are features which encourage independentliving.• Prospective buyers with disabilities can come from within or outside theCityLocal governments should be role models in providing highest standards ofaccessibility and inclusiveness for all citizens and residents and consistentlymonitor all projects for realistic compliance to the maximum extent practicable.The most important gain is that Civil Rights are maintained. B. Meaningful awareness of the needs of people with disabilitiesWithout a doubt, people with mobility, sensory, cognitive, and psychiatric disabilities must consistentlyface undue burdens as they attempt to gain fair and equitable opportunities in all aspects of civic life,including affordable and accessible housing. There are no exemptions for them; the conditions, whichare named "disability", are generally lifelong.In Somerville, the percentage of persons with at least one disability, who do not live in group homes orinstitutions, are not college students- and of whom speak either English or Spanish as their primarylanguage- and filled out a Census form in 2005- is 12%, according to the ACS.7 Adding in grouphomes, elderly, institutionalized, and immigrant populations, a more realistic estimate is closer to 20%,all of whom deserve equitable social services, health care, and accessibility built-into the civicenvironment at every level and source in order to reach their fullest potentials as communityparticipants.7 SEE: U.S. Census, American Fact Finder, 2005: http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en
  13. 13. participants.Of the Somerville residents with a disability between ages 16-64 years, 33.9% are employed; ascontrasted with 79.9% with no disability employed. Those below poverty level are 32.6% with adisability; 14.1% with no disability. Based upon the map of poverty in Somerville (see the DisabilitiesCommissions Recommendations 20058), the majority of these residents reside in Union Square.Thus, affordable housing in Somerville is clearly an important "gap" need, which SCC strives to fill;affordable ACCESSIBLE housing in Somerville is also a dire need, which SCC is mandated to fulfill tothe fullest extent and within the context of its stated mission. C. This writer and this documentMy relevant expertise is in the areas of Disability policy, advocacy, social services, and health care. Iam neither a lawyer nor an architect. However, I do have more than a usual familiarity with someconstruction language as well as civil rights legislation.I believe I have reviewed the SCC memorandum in a fair manner, and I conducted an extensive reviewof over 20 pertinent Federal and HUD documents, along with a review of the history and currenthousing and disability policy and relevant CDBG and HOME issues.The most important question (for me) to consider was: Is this better than nothing? After all, this Projectwill serve 2 formerly homeless families; the sooner the better! But I feel that SCC and the City cancertainly raise their standards of excellency in responding to the needs of their consumers withdisabilities, which includes people who are homeless and have dealt with extreme poverty. Andconsistency in matters of ADA compliance must be established ASAP.This document is meant to sincerely guide the City so that the potential liability issues are carefullyaddressed, and in the most timely manner available (at this time). Please forgive anymisunderstandings on my part of the culture for which it is written and regarding whom it addresses.This response document represents over 50 hours of my time and energy; I was not offeredremuneration for these efforts. Nor did I receive any remuneration from any Disability Commissionfunds, nor any advocacy groups, construction, architectural, or community corporations, or any othergroup or person(s).D. a repeated plea to the City of Somerville.I again urge the City of Somerville Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development to investin at least a part time staff expert in Disability Policy and Access Issues, in order to proactively care forpotential liability issues as much as is possible; and to envision and create a sustainable, fullyaccessorized, technically resourced, and able 21st century environment for the residents, workers, andvisitors of Somerville.8 SEE Commission for Persons With Disabilities, City of Somerville website, right-side .PDF link "RecommendationsReport"

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