Local News

Provision to Provide More Housing for the Disabled Draws Criticism

Posted January 26, 1999

— We all should have the opportunity to live in a home that is comfortable, and matches our lifestyle. For people who are disabled, it's not always easy to find a perfect fit.

That may soon change.

Beginning July 1, all new apartment and condominium complexes in the state must provide significantly more handicapped-equipped apartments and parking spaces.

Sharon O'Neal couldn't be happier that developers may be required to provide more of these apartments in the area. It took her months to find her fully-accessible apartment.

"Everywhere that I called they were either filled or they didn't have one," says O'Neal.

The new provision is meant to combine state and federalFair Housingguidelines with North Carolina building codes. But some say all housing officials did was provide more cost to consumers.

Under the provision, up to 50 percent of some apartments may have to be handicapped-equipped. Some developers would also be required to increase handicapped parking by 30 percent.

"It means more construction cost, more footage," says Ken Syzmanski of the Apartment Association of North Carolina.

Szymanski says the new building codes will dramatically increase cost to developers, adding as much as $5,000 per unit.

He says that price will be passed on to consumers.

"So if rents are now $700 a month, they'd go to about $805 as a result of the increased cost stemming from this regulation," says Szymanski.

Szymanski also says more handicapped-accessible housing is being provided than is being used right now -- another reason the provision should be overturned.

"No one needs that degree of accessibility because the whole society has to pay the cost," says Szymanski.

"Hey, we're human too," says Sharon O'Neal. "We deserve apartments just like everyone else."

The North Carolina Building Code Council says they have received numerous complaints from developers around the state.

As a result, officials say they will review the new policy in their March meeting and possibly make some changes.

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