Limited English proficiency as a barrier to housing

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Limited English proficiency as a barrier to housing

Just how much of a barrier does limited English proficiency create to accessing housing? I've heard stories about property managers terminating phone calls from people that did not speak English well and people losing their place on Housing Choice Voucher waiting lists because they didn't understand the written notice in English from a housing authority.

More subtle, perhaps, is the situation in federally-assisted housing where a provider must adopt a Language Assistance Program for addressing limited English proficient applicants and tenants language needs. Sometimes, there simply is no Language Access Plan, or if there is one, it is deficient or staff isn't trained to it. Has there been a national assessment of how this impacts those that do not use English as they are seeking or trying to keep their housing?

I have reviewed Language Needs Assessments and Language Access Plans from state agencies and local governments in my state. Assuming they are typical of what might exist at private assisted housing provider offices, I found many deficiencies:

-The documents don't exist
-The documents are deficient and do not follow the HUD LEP Guidance; Language Access Plans are often strong on policy and weak on procedures
-There is spotty staff training
-Compliance documentation is non-existent
-Notice of no-cost language assistance and the right to file a complaint is not given
-There doesn't seem to be active public education or enforcement by federal agencies

But, in spite of these apparent defects and the barrier that they might create, what is the actual impact? Is it large/small compared to other barriers? Does papering the file with the required documents make a difference or are there other factors that play more important roles in helping LEP persons access good customer service, peer pressure, market demands, economic imperatives, for example?

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