Housing Authority to pay fee for deaf resident
By Erin Mulvaney
December 5, 2012
The Houston Housing Authority has agreed to pay rental assistance and to change its policy in a settlement of a complaint by a deaf resident who said the agency refused to provide a sign language interpreter at her eligibility hearing.
The authority paid $4,251 in rental payments for the time when the woman’s assistance was denied, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The agreement announced Wednesday also requires the housing authority to offer sign language interpreters for tenants who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Rather than providing an interpreter, the tenant complained, the housing authority relied on her daughter, who is not fluent in American sign language, to interpret during a hearing on her eligibility for a voucher that would pay part of her rent on Jan. 5, 2011. Because of ineffective translation, the tenant said, her application for assistance was denied.
In her complaint, the resident said she twice asked the housing authority to provide an interpreter for the hearing, but none was provided. After the woman filed a complaint with HUD, the housing authority held a second hearing on Feb. 21, 2012 with an interpreter and her housing assistance was reinstated.
The case was settled on Oct. 23.
“Everyone should be able to understand their housing rights and options,” said Mark Brezina, HUD’s Acting Region VI Administrator. “For a Deaf person receiving HUD rental assistance, a Public Housing Authority may need to provide an interpreter to convey information, particularly when a person’s continued tenancy is at stake.”
Houston Housing Authority president Tory Gunsolley said the authority provided a sign language interpreter for the woman during the second hearing and her place in the program was restored.
He said it is common for a resident to bring one of their children into the hearing to help translate, and it is impossible to know whether one needs more help without notification. He said the landlord allowed the woman to stay in the apartment until the matter was resolved and the fee will go directly to him.
Gunsolley said if an interpreter is requested it was already the policy of the housing authority to provide one for someone who has a disability or does not speak English. He said as a result of the agreement the housing authority will take a more “proactive” approach to helping provide a translator.
“What’s disheartening is the housing authority has been improving our hearing process and treatment for residents. I’m disappointed this is a news story,” Gunsolley said.