HUD Proposes Changes to FHA ‘Safe Harbors’
HUD proposes changes to FHA ‘safe harbor’ design and construction requirements for multifamily housing.
A safe harbor is a design and construction regulation sanctioned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Following a safe harbor will ensure compliance with Fair Housing Act accessibility requirements. The FHA requires that multifamily housing built after March 1991 incorporate accessible features for people with disabilities.
Additions to Existing Safe Harbors
The rule would recognize additional sets of standards and model building code editions, or safe harbors. Proposed additions to the current list of 10 safe harbors include:
- 2009 edition of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards.
- 2009, 2012, 2015, and 2018 editions of the International Building Code (IBC).
- Incorporate by reference 2009 edition of International Code Council (ICC) Accessible and Usable Building and Facilities standard (ICC A117.1-2009).
“Designers and builders of multifamily housing developments have an obligation to comply with the Fair Housing Act, particularly as it relates to accessibility … The rule we are proposing will greatly assist them in meeting that requirement while giving state and local governments the opportunity to reduce regulatory burdens that can arise when federal, state, and local laws differ.”
– Paul Compton, HUD’s General Counsel
HUD announced the proposed rule changes in January 2020. Public comments are due by March 16, 2020. For more information about the proposed rule changes and how to submit feedback, visit the Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST website.
The various safe harbors share more commonalities than differences. However, subtle variations make it more advantageous to choose one over another when developing a building. For example, nuances of one safe harbor might align more closely with the state or local codes, which vary by jurisdiction. To ensure FHA compliance, communities can incorporate one of HUD’s safe harbors in their own building codes.
LCM guides owners in choosing a safe harbor to use for a particular property. We believe it is prudent to follow all provisions of that safe harbor to fulfill the FHA’s accessibility requirements. Applying criteria from different safe harbor standards to the same project is not deemed as conforming to FHA rules. LCM’s FHA Consulting specialty advises on the intricacies of FHA requirements and ways to design and construct compliant multifamily housing.
HUD relies on LCM’s expertise to participate in the upcoming revisions of the FHA Design Manual and to manage its FHA FIRST initiative to promote accessibility requirements of Fair Housing Act.