While Peter A. Tatian’s July 21 letter, “Fair housing for the disabled,” continued the important discussion of housing rights for D.C. residents with disabilities, his “question” and conclusion miss a critical point. The issue is not one of a lack of accessibility standards — the District’s Building Code has included a mandatory set of detailed accessibility requirements for new apartment and condominium construction since 1987.
These requirements have been expressly approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as satisfying the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements for people with disabilities.
The Equal Rights Center specifically identified the District’s failure to enforce its long-standing accessibility laws in an investigative white paper, “Accessible Housing in the District of Columbia: An Unfulfilled Promise,” which was presented to the D.C. Council member responsible for oversight of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) more than a year and a half ago.
The unfortunate conclusion is that this is yet another failure of District government, and of DCRA in particular, to implement and enforce its existing laws to protect the District’s thousands of residents with disabilities. The right question is: “How long can we tolerate this?”
John Baker, Washington
The writer is fair housing program manager at the Equal Rights Center.