Fair Housing Act Design & Construction Requirements for Multifamily Housing
Multifamily housing is a leading construction industry sector showing increased growth and significant activity in communities across the country. With an interest in building multifamily units, construction professionals must be aware of the diverse regulatory requirements for creating accessible residential structures that are designed to meet the needs of all potential residents, particularly those with disabilities or mobility limitations.
The Fair Housing
Act is a piece of legislation that covers legal requirements for the sale, rental or financing of housing in the United States. Among its more important elements, the Fair Housing Act contains construction requirements for multifamily housing to make it accessible. The requirements that construction professionals must follow are set out in the Act and in the Fair Housing Act Design Manual, a detailed guidebook containing comprehensive information on how to comply with the Act.
Origins of the Fair Housing Act The Fair Housing
Act is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. This act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental or financing of housing based on an individual’s personal characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In 1988, amendments to the Fair Housing Act made it unlawful to discriminate against any potential homeowner based on disability or family status.
The Fair Housing Act Design
Manual explains that “people with disabilities are unique in at least one respect because they are the only minority that can be discriminated against solely by the design of the built environment.” This means that individuals with disabilities could be denied equal access to a structure simply because of how that structure has been built. Longstanding construction and design techniques could inadvertently prevent a person in a wheelchair, for example, from being able to enter a residential building.
The Act has established construction requirements for multifamily housing. These include accessibility requirements for all housing built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991. Owners, investors, builders and others involved in producing housing who do not comply with these requirements could be committing unlawful discrimination against persons with disabilities.
Requirements of the Fair Housing Act
The most important construction requirements for multifamily housing under the Fair Housing Act are as follows:
- An accessible building entrance on an accessible route – People with disabilities must be able to enter the building easily and without obstacles. The route to the entrance must also be easily traversed by wheelchairs.
- Accessible common and public use areas – Common and public areas in a residential structure, such as lobbies and foyers, must be usable by residents in a wheelchair.
- Usable doors – Doors must be usable by a person in a wheelchair through easily reached handles, switches for automatic opening or other means.
- Accessible route into and through the dwelling – Those in wheelchairs must be able to easily move through the building and into a housing unit. Hallways must be wide enough to allow access, and entrances can’t be difficult to cross. Doors must be wide enough for entry and easy to open and close.
- Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations – These important controls must be within reach of wheelchair-bound people.
- Reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars – Bathrooms, which present particular risks for those with mobility limitations, must be accessible and have reinforced walls for the installation of grab bars that make it easy to transfer to and from a wheelchair.
- Usable kitchens and bathrooms – Both kitchens and bathrooms must be designed to allow use by persons with mobility limitations or from wheelchairs. For example, countertops and cabinets must be lowered. Cabinets could contain slide-out shelving.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information on construction requirements for multifamily housing under the Fair Housing Act and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!