D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced Thursday that he’s filed a civil rights lawsuit against the District of Columbia Housing Authority, claiming residents with disabilities had to wait for accessible housing — in some cases, more than a decade.
The housing authority owns and manages more than 8,300 public housing units, altogether housing almost 50,000 people, Racine’s office said in a statement. At least 45% of the authority’s tenants are senior citizens, have a disability or both.
The authority quickly approves requests for accommodations from people with disabilities, Racine’s office said; the actual provision of accessible accommodations, is a different story: “While requests for reasonable accommodations may be approved quickly,” Racine’s office said, “DCHA fails to actually provide the accommodations that many residents are entitled to for years after approval, and some have faced more than a decade of delays.”
They said more than 250 current DCHA residents who have been approved for accessible housing are still waiting, also accusing the authority of offering apartments infested with cockroaches and rats, or that don’t accommodate disabilities.
In the statement, Racine’s office cited the case of a woman in a wheelchair who lived on the fourth floor of a building without an elevator, and whose neighbors had to carry her up the stairs. She was approved for a wheelchair-accessible unit in January 2017, and died late last year without getting into an accessible apartment.
“This complaint makes clear that DCHA has repeatedly failed to fulfill its legal responsibility to accommodate District residents who have physical disabilities with housing units that are safe and accessible,” Racine said in the statement.
“After seeking to persuade DCHA to address these safety and quality of life issues, we had no choice but to file this case to ensure that the disabled tenants receive the accommodations that the law requires.”