A Consumer's Guide to Choices and Advocacy

Chapter 5: Housing Rights

Unfortunately, you may face some barriers in obtaining housing that is both accessible and affordable. Here are some common barriers, and what you can do to overcome those obstacles.

Barrier #1: Shortage of this type of housing. There are far too few housing units to meet the demand. You may be put on a long waiting list.

Solution: Apply for housing as soon as possible, even if you’re not sure you will definitely need it. Apply for all types of housing available. For example, if you are applying for Section 8 and HUD subsidized housing, take the first one that comes up. You can always switch to the other one as it becomes available.

Join or support an organization that is advocating for more affordable, accessible housing. While this won’t help you immediately, it could make a difference in the future.

Barrier #2: Lack of knowledge about the existence of affordable, accessible housing or how to find it.

Solution: Contact your closest Center for Independent Living, Area Agency on Aging or Aging and Disability Resource Center.

Barrier #3: Housing claiming to be accessible is not accessible to you. For example, you are a wheelchair user, and there is no roll-in shower in an apartment you are considering.

Solution: Request a “reasonable modification” of the current shower in the apartment (although you will most likely have to pay for it yourself unless you are in federally subsidized housing). It is best to make such a request in writing. See Appendix 3 for a sample letter you could use.

Barrier #4: Your request for a reasonable modification or accommodation is denied, or you have been trying to rent or buy an apartment or home and feel you have been discriminated against.

Solution: File a complaint with the Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity.

Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
451 Seventh Street SW
Washington, DC 20410-2000
1 (800) 669-9777
To file a complaint online (simple form), go here:

You can file on your own or with help from a lawyer. Free legal assistance may be available from your local legal aid office/legal services provider (contact your Area Agency on Aging, Center for Disability or Aging and Disability Resource Center for information). To assist persons with disabilities in filing the complaint, HUD will provide a toll-free TTY phone for the hearing impaired (1 (800) 927-9275), interpreters, tapes and Braille materials and assistance in reading and completing forms.

In many states, there are also state agencies where you can file a complaint.

In this Chapter:

Chapter 5: Housing Rights