TEMPE, Ariz. — In 2005, a federal study revealed that the U.S. had “virtually no affordable housing for the deaf,” so the federal government helped build Apache ASL Trails in Tempe.
Apache ASL Trails was designed specifically for the hearing impaired. Currently, approximately 90 percent of the 74-unit apartment building has deaf or deaf-blind occupants.
Every unit accommodates wheelchairs, blinking lights to indicate doorbells and when utilities are on and even video phones that let residents “talk” to friends. There is also a large events room where many residents meet daily to sign with each other and watch TV and play games.
But now, the Department of Housing and Urban Development – a federal agency – says Apache ASL Trails violates civil rights law by essentially discriminating against others who do not have a hearing impairment, Fox News reports.
“I think it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in awhile,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who has attempted to negotiate the problem.
HUD had threatened to “pull all federal housing aid to Arizona unless it limits the number of hearing-impaired residents to 18 people,” despite funding $2.6 million in 2008 with the complete knowledge that Apache ASL Trails would benefit the hearing impaired.
State housing director Michael Trailor continues to not comply with HUD’s orders and the National Association for the Deaf has also stepped in.
“There is no statute or regulation that mandates any 25 percent quote,” the Association’s CEO Howard Rosenblum wrote in a letter to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. Rosenblum, also adding that HUD is forcing the hearing impaired to live in “isolation” and “firetraps.”
It’s been two years that state taxpayers and the apartment’s developer have been battling HUD and there is still no resolution.