Independent living providers in Michigan may not request medical data to determine the eligibility of their residents either prior to or during their residency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ruled Monday.
HUD reached a Conciliation Agreement with Huntington Management, a Southfield, Mich.-based company that operates five independent living communities in southeast Michigan known as Oakmont Communities, along with an assisted living and memory care facility known as Oakmont Sterling Assisted.
The agreement settles allegations that Huntington terminated a woman—who remained unnamed in HUD documents—from employment at one of the five communities after she had raised fair housing concerns about the company’s policy of monitoring the health of both prospective and current residents.
Communities involved in the agreement documents included only the independent living facilities operated by Huntington: Oakmont Parkway in Clinton Township, Oakmont Livonia, Oakmont Northville, Oakmont Sterling and Oakmont Manor, both of which are located in Sterling Heights.
The woman, who will receive $35,000 in compensation, worked with the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit (FHCMD), a non-profit organization that receives HUD funding, to file the complaint that focused on the Oakmont Livonia property.
What FHCMD had found in its investigation were practices that included the “regular and uniform collection” of medical data of applicants and current residents and “gate-keeping” practices in which residents who had to leave their units for hospital stays were not permitted to return or remain in their units at the Oakmont communities once they were deemed not “independent” enough.
In addition to compensating the woman, Huntington will alter its policies in accordance with the agreement to no longer require residents returning from hospital stays to undergo a “gatekeeping review” or provide medical information.
Also under the agreement, residents will not be required to submit their medical information for approval or evaluation either before or any time during their tenancy at the Oakmont communities involved in the case.
The agreement with Huntington is part of a much larger issue involving housing discrimination against the elderly and people living with disabilities, according to HUD, which announced a series of actions Monday in response to Fair Housing Act violations in California, New Hampshire and Alabama.
“We continue to see more cases of discrimination against persons with disabilities than any other type,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD’s assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, in a written statement. “It is unacceptable that individuals with disabilities have to fight for the opportunity to live where they want, or to have reasonable accommodations extended to them so they can enjoy their dwelling.”
Huntington Management could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Written by Jason Oliva