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State of Oregon
Building Codes Division Staff 
Technical Advisory

   
The following advice applies to current code and conditions described in the question.
Applications for similar situations may have different determinations.
   

PROGRAM:

Structural Program

SUBJECT:

Fair Housing Act Overview

SOURCE:

1996 Oregon Structural Specialty Code (OSSC)

REFERENCE:

Section 1110

DATE OF ISSUE:

February 10, 1997

PREPARED BY:

C. Darin Wilson, P.E., Code Specialist, (503) 373-1354

   

QUESTION: Does the OSSC conform to the Fair Housing Act for covered multifamily dwellings?

DETERMINATION: Pursuant to ORS 447.231, the OSSC does conform to, and in some cases, is more restrictive than, the Fair Housing Act requirements for covered multifamily dwellings. The following analysis contains specific examples.

ANALYSIS:

Background

The Fair Housing Act of 1988 (FHA) was added to the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of disability and familial status. The FHA makes it unlawful to design and construct certain multifamily dwellings for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, in a manner that makes them inaccessible to persons with disabilities. "Covered multifamily dwellings" are buildings consisting of four or more dwelling units if such buildings have one or more elevators, and ground floor dwelling units in other buildings consisting of four or more dwelling units. See the Oregon Structural Specialty Code (OSSC) Section 1102 definition. Dwelling units on the same property within a single structure separated only by firewalls do not constitute separate buildings.

The FHA also establishes design and construction requirements to make these dwellings readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. On March 6, 1991, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published final Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines to provide builders and developers with technical guidance on how to comply with the accessibility requirements of the FHA.

Guideline Requirements

There are seven basic requirements specified in the HUD Guidelines as follows:

 

Requirement 1: An accessible building entrance on an accessible route.
Requirement 2: Accessible common and public use areas.
Requirement 3: Usable doors (usable by a person in a wheelchair).
Requirement 4: An accessible route into and through the dwelling unit.
Requirement 5: Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations.
Requirement 6: Reinforced walls for grab bars.
Requirement 7: Usable kitchens and bathrooms.

The design specifications in the Guidelines are recommended guidelines only. Persons may choose to depart from these guidelines and seek alternate ways to demonstrate that they have met the requirements of the Act. This federal provision is provided for in OSSC Section 1101.3.

ORS 447.210 to 447.280

Part of the purpose of ORS 447.210 to 447.280 is to make covered multifamily dwellings in the state accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, as provided in the FHA.

The Director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services is required, pursuant to ORS 447.231, to adopt rules to conform the state building code to the FHA, unless otherwise directed in statute. The BCD Administrator has been delegated this authority.

Alignment of the OSSC to the FHA

Notwithstanding the exceptions, OSSC Section 1106.1.10.1 requires dwelling units and associated public and common use areas of covered multifamily dwellings to be accessible. Section 1106.1.10.2 requires that all dwelling units shall be adaptable and built in accordance with Section 1110. The exceptions are:

  1. Group R Occupancies with three or fewer dwelling units when the number of unitsincludes those in buildings on the same property only separated by firewalls; and

  2. Group R Occupancies with four or more dwelling units where the unit is:

    1. On floors other than the ground floor where no elevator is provided; or

    2. In a multi-story townhouse nonelevator building; or

    3. On sites where multiple, nonelevator buildings occur on a singlesite and where portions of the site have grades prior to development which exceed 10 percent, the building official may approve certain modifications.

Section 1106.1.10.3 states that in mixed use occupancies, where the ground floor of a building is not a Group R Occupancy, the first level of the Group R Occupancy that has dwelling units, shall be considered the ground floor and shall have adaptable dwelling units. This means the second story of some buildings may be required to have adaptable dwelling units, even when an elevator or lift is not provided.

When buildings are exempt from containing any adaptable dwelling units under 1106.1.10.2, parking spaces provided only for tenants need not be accessible.

The OSSC at least meets the scoping requirements of the FHA that define covered multifamily dwellings. The OSSC Chapter 11, Section 1110, provides for the seven HUD guideline design requirements as illustrated in the following table:

HUD OSSC
Requirement 1: Accessible entrance and accessible exterior route Sections 1103, 1106.2.4, 1110.3.1
Requirement 2: Accessible public use areas Sections 1110.1 to 1110.2
Requirement 3: Usable doors Section 1110.5
Requirement 4: Accessible interior route  Sections 1110.1, 1110.3 to 1110.8
Requirement 5: Accessible switches, controls, etc. Sections 1110.2, 1110.9, 1110.10.4, 1110.10.6
Requirement 6: Adaptable grab bars Section 1110.10.5
Requirement 7: Usable kitchens, bathrooms Sections 1110.9 to 1110.12

EXAMPLES

Requirement 1: All covered multifamily dwellings shall be designed and constructed to have at least one building entrance on an accessible route unless it is impractical to do so because of the terrain or unusual characteristics of the site.

Example 1.1 - Accessible entrance and exterior route: A builder is constructing 30 apartments in a building having three stories with no elevator. Since the building does not have an elevator, only the "ground floor " units are covered multifamily dwelling units. The "ground floor" is the first floor because this floor must have an accessible entrance. Only the first floor units must meet the accessibility requirements for covered multifamily dwellings. Per OSSC Section 1106.2.4, one of the accessible public entries shall be the primary entry to the building and must be a ground floor entry, notwith- standing the exceptions. Therefore, the building must have one accessible entrance on the first floor per Section 1103 and 1110.3.1, an accessible exterior route shall be provided to the accessible entry.

Requirement 2: Public and common-use areas and facilities shall be accessible for all covered multifamily dwellings.

Example 2.1 - Accessible Public/Common Use Areas: Per OSSC Section 1110.1, item 1, the rental office of a covered multifamily dwelling must be accessible and on an accessible route.

Example 2.2 - Accessible Public/Common Use Areas: A minimum of two percent of all parking spaces must be accessible and located on an accessible route per OSSC Section 1110.1, item 2 and 1104.3. However, the covered or enclosed parking area for tenants of the covered multifamily dwelling need not have vertical clearance for vans. Since OSSC Section 1104.3 specifically provides requirements for tenant parking and references public parking requirements to other provisions, the vertical clearance of Section 1104.4.2 does not apply. In addition, see the federal guidelines published in 24 CFR, Chapter 1 that also provide this exception. This is an appropriate code interpretation because ORS 447.231 directs BCD to conform the OSSC to FHA requirements, and the statutes do not otherwise address tenant parking at covered multifamily dwellings.

Requirement 3: Doors shall be sufficiently wide enough to allow passage into and within all premises by persons in wheelchairs (usable doors).

Example 3.1 - Usable Doors: A standard 32-inch door does not provide sufficient clear opening to meet the requirement for usable doors. A standard 34-inch door, normally provides the measured 32-inch clear opening required by OSSC section 1109.9 (from 1110.5). Additionally, the door hardware of the main entry door must be accessible. The door hardware for the interior doors, however, need not be accessible. See OSSC Section 1109.5, item 1. Also, only the primary entry door of adaptable dwelling units need comply with the maneuvering clearances of Section 1109.9.3.

Requirement 4: An accessible route into and through a covered multifamily dwelling unit shall be provided.

Example 4.1 - Interior Accessible Route: Per the HUD guidelines, if an individual covered multifamily dwelling unit has an individual private garage that is attached to and serves only that dwelling, the garage need not be accessible in terms of meeting the accessible parking space width and length requirements. The private garage is not considered by HUD as part of the dwelling unit and not finished living space. However Oregon is more restrictive in this case. Per OSSC Section 1106.1.13, exception 1, private garages, carports and sheds need not be accessible only if they are accessory to dwelling units that are not required to be accessible. When an accessible dwelling unit has an attached private garage, the garage shall be accessible, pursuant to the OSSC. Since BCD has no statutory authority to exceed FHA requirements for garages, a code change may be appropriate for this provision.

Example 4.2 - Interior Accessible Route: A raised or sunken floor is allowed in an adaptable dwelling unit provided it does not interfere with the accessible route through the dwelling unit and is not located in the kitchen or bathroom. See OSSC section 1110.3.1, item 2.

Requirement 5: Dwelling units shall contain light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations.

Example 5.1 - Environmental Controls: Bathroom hardware must be accessible in that it shall have hardware that does not require tight grasping, twisting or pinching to operate, i.e., if operable with a closed fist the hardware is considered accessible. See OSSC Section 1109.3.1 (from 1110.9). Mounting height of hardware, switches and outlets shall be in accordance with the required heights and reach ranges. See OSSC Section 1109.3.2 (also from 1110.9).

Example 5.2 - Environmental Controls: A kitchen ventilation fan on a range hood is considered part of the appliance and therefore does not have to be in an accessible location. There is no requirement for appliances in dwelling units, or the switches that operate them, to be accessible. OSSC Section 1110.9 does NOT address appliance accessibility.

Requirement 6: Reinforcement in bathroom walls shall be provided to allow for later installation of shower seats and grab bars around the toilet, tub, and shower stall.

Example 6.1 - Grab Bars: The exception in OSSC Section 1110.10.5, provides that grab bars may be omitted within the accessible bathing and toilet facility of an adaptable dwelling unit provided all structural reinforcements for grab bar installation are provided in the appropriate locations in the adjoining walls.

Example 6.2 - Grab Bars: The OSSC, as well as the HUD guidelines, has no specific design requirement for the type of material or method of providing reinforcement for bathroom walls. It is recommended that the builder/owner maintain records that reflect the placement of reinforcement material for later reference for installation of grab bars.

Requirement 7: All usable bathrooms and kitchens must be designed such that a person in a wheelchair can maneuver about the space.

Example 7.1 - Usable Kitchens: A usable kitchen calls for a clear space of at least 30 inches by 48 inches to allow parallel approach by a person in a wheelchair at the range or cooktop and sink. Either a parallel or forward approach shall be provided at other appliances. Cabinetry in a kitchen need not be adaptable or accessible. See OSSC Section 1110.11, Exception 5.

Example 7.2 - Usable Bathrooms: In an adaptable bathroom, any cabinetry installed beneath the lavatory can be installed provided it is not permanent and can be easily removed at a later date to allow knee and toe space for a forward approach. See OSSC Section 1110.10.6.

Example 2.1 - Accessible Public/Common Use Areas: Per OSSC Section 1110.1, item 1, the rental office of a covered multifamily dwelling must be accessible and on an accessible route.

Example 2.2 - Accessible Public/Common Use Areas: A minimum of two percent of all parking spaces must be accessible and located on an accessible route per OSSC Section 1110.1, item 2 and 1104.3. However, the covered or enclosed parking area for tenants of the covered multifamily dwelling need not have vertical clearance for vans. Since OSSC Section 1104.3 specifically provides requirements for tenant parking and references public parking requirements to other provisions, the vertical clearance of Section 1104.4.2 does not apply. In addition, see the federal guidelines published in 24 CFR, Chapter 1 that also provide this exception. This is an appropriate code interpretation because ORS 447.231 directs BCD to conform the OSSC to FHA requirements, and the statutes do not otherwise address tenant parking at covered multifamily dwellings.

Requirement 3: Doors shall be sufficiently wide enough to allow passage into and within all premises by persons in wheelchairs (usable doors).

Example 3.1 - Usable Doors: A standard 32-inch door does not provide sufficient clear opening to meet the requirement for usable doors. A standard 34-inch door, normally provides the measured 32-inch clear opening required by OSSC section 1109.9 (from 1110.5). Additionally, the door hardware of the main entry door must be accessible. The door hardware for the interior doors, however, need not be accessible. See OSSC Section 1109.5, item 1. Also, only the primary entry door of adaptable dwelling units need comply with the maneuvering clearances of Section 1109.9.3.

Requirement 4: An accessible route into and through a covered multifamily dwelling unit shall be provided.

Example 4.1 - Interior Accessible Route: Per the HUD guidelines, if an individual covered multifamily dwelling unit has an individual private garage that is attached to and serves only that dwelling, the garage need not be accessible in terms of meeting the accessible parking space width and length requirements. The private garage is not considered by HUD as part of the dwelling unit and not finished living space. However Oregon is more restrictive in this case. Per OSSC Section 1106.1.13, exception 1, private garages, carports and sheds need not be accessible only if they are accessory to dwelling units that are not required to be accessible. When an accessible dwelling unit has an attached private garage, the garage shall be accessible, pursuant to the OSSC. Since BCD has no statutory authority to exceed FHA requirements for garages, a code change may be appropriate for this provision.

Example 4.2 - Interior Accessible Route: A raised or sunken floor is allowed in an adaptable dwelling unit provided it does not interfere with the accessible route through the dwelling unit and is not located in the kitchen or bathroom. See OSSC section 1110.3.1, item 2.

Requirement 5: Dwelling units shall contain light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations.

Example 5.1 - Environmental Controls: Bathroom hardware must be accessible in that it shall have hardware that does not require tight grasping, twisting or pinching to operate, i.e., if operable with a closed fist the hardware is considered accessible. See OSSC Section 1109.3.1 (from 1110.9). Mounting height of hardware, switches and outlets shall be in accordance with the required heights and reach ranges. See OSSC Section 1109.3.2 (also from 1110.9).

Example 5.2 - Environmental Controls: A kitchen ventilation fan on a range hood is considered part of the appliance and therefore does not have to be in an accessible location. There is no requirement for appliances in dwelling units, or the switches that operate them, to be accessible. OSSC Section 1110.9 does NOT address appliance accessibility.

Requirement 6: Reinforcement in bathroom walls shall be provided to allow for later installation of shower seats and grab bars around the toilet, tub, and shower stall.

Example 6.1 - Grab Bars: The exception in OSSC Section 1110.10.5, provides that grab bars may be omitted within the accessible bathing and toilet facility of an adaptable dwelling unit provided all structural reinforcements for grab bar installation are provided in the appropriate locations in the adjoining walls.

Example 6.2 - Grab Bars: The OSSC, as well as the HUD guidelines, has no specific design requirement for the type of material or method of providing reinforcement for bathroom walls. It is recommended that the builder/owner maintain records that reflect the placement of reinforcement material for later reference for installation of grab bars.

Requirement 7: All usable bathrooms and kitchens must be designed such that a person in a wheelchair can maneuver about the space.

Example 7.1 - Usable Kitchens: A usable kitchen calls for a clear space of at least 30 inches by 48 inches to allow parallel approach by a person in a wheelchair at the range or cooktop and sink. Either a parallel or forward approach shall be provided at other appliances. Cabinetry in a kitchen need not be adaptable or accessible. See OSSC Section 1110.11, Exception 5.

Example 7.2 - Usable Bathrooms: In an adaptable bathroom, any cabinetry installed beneath the lavatory can be installed provided it is not permanent and can be easily removed at a later date to allow knee and toe space for a forward approach. See OSSC Section 1110.10.6.