LOS ANGELES -- In an unwelcome turn for a city suffering from a homelessness crisis, federal housing officials said they have denied Los Angeles $80 million in funds, citing long-standing failures by local leaders to ensure that properties built with government money are accessible to those who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson informed Mayor Eric Garcetti in a letter Friday that his agency was rebuffing funding proposals submitted by city officials last month.
"As you have been notified time and again, the city is unlawfully discriminating against individuals with disabilities in its affordable housing program, under federal accessibility laws ... and has refused to take the steps necessary to remedy this discrimination," Carson wrote. He said a more detailed explanation for the rejection would be sent to the city within 15 days.
Local officials will have 45 days to resubmit or rework their funding application or may seek to obtain the funding by entering into an agreement that addresses the city's outstanding violations on disabled housing, Carson said in his letter.
HUD officials did not respond to inquiries from the Los Angeles Times on Saturday. Garcetti, for his part, said in a statement that the city had previously worked in "good faith" with disabled rights advocates to address claims that the city had failed to provide sufficient housing for those who use wheelchairs or have other impairments.
Garcetti insisted that city leaders are working to address HUD's concerns and that there are "no grounds" for withholding the money.
"These funds support an array of federal programs upon which millions of people rely, and withholding them will ultimately hurt the neediest among us," the mayor said.
He said he planned to speak to Carson next week and urge him to reconsider the decision, which was first reported by Politico.
"At a time of rising homelessness and a moment of record income inequality in America, the victims of this action will not be local government, but struggling Americans," Garcetti said.
The money being withheld by HUD includes funds from the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which pays for affordable housing for low-income families.