Federal officials are urging housing providers across the country to do more to help people with disabilities find affordable places to live in their communities.

Under a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case known as Olmstead v. L.C., people with disabilities have the right to live and receive services in the community whenever possible. But officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are acknowledging that a lack of integrated, affordable housing options has made achieving that reality difficult.

Now the agency is asking local housing providers who receive financial assistance from the federal government to step up. In guidance issued this week, HUD is urging such entities to support state and local Olmstead efforts.

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“HUD encourages public housing agencies and other housing providers receiving federal financial assistance from HUD to partner with state and local governments to provide additional community-based, integrated housing opportunities for individuals with disabilities transitioning out of, or at serious risk of entering, institutions or other segregated settings,” the document states.

While the new guidance does not outline any additional requirements for federally-funded housing programs, HUD stresses the “acute” need for community-based options for people with disabilities as states increasingly transition individuals away from institutional settings.

The federal agency also said that it is exploring options to fund more housing units for people with disabilities and looking for greater opportunities to promote self-determination within housing programs.

“There is a tremendous need for affordable housing where individuals with disabilities are able to live and be part of the very fabric of their communities,” said Shaun Donovan, secretary of housing and urban development. “HUD is committed to offering housing options that enable individuals with disabilities to live in the most integrated settings possible and to fully participate in community life.”

Jennifer Mathis at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law said her organization is “encouraged” by HUD’s move.

“The vast majority of people with disabilities want to live in ordinary housing. We hope this guidance will spark development across the country of mainstream housing for people with disabilities,” she said.

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