NEW DATA DESCRIBES HOUSING CRISIS FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

“Priced Out in 2014: The Housing Crisis for People With Disabilities”  is a June 2015 report by the Technical Assistance Collaborative Inc., Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities, Housing Task Force. The report was funded by the Melville Charitable Trust. The report identifies and describes the enormous gap between rental housing costs and the monthly income of persons who suffer serious and long-term disabilities and rely on federal Social Security Income (SSI) for their basic needs.  The report found that, as a national average, a person receiving SSI needed to pay 104% of her/his monthly income in order to rent a modest one-bedroom unit and 90% of her/his monthly income for a studio/efficiency unit.

To give perspective to these findings, under current federal standards, a household is recognized as “cost burdened” when its housing costs exceed 30% of monthly income. The national average for annual SSI income is $8995, about 23% below the 2014 federal poverty line.

In California, the situation is even more dire, according to the report. Across California, the average rent for a one-bedroom unit is equal to 121% of her/his SSI monthly payment and 103% for a studio/efficiency unit. In the Oakland/Fremont area, a one-bedroom rental unit equals 144% of SSI monthly income and 118% for a studio/efficiency unit. SSI payments for Californians places recipients at 21% of the median income.

This enormous gap between income and rental costs deprives hundreds of thousands of individuals with disabilities of a basic human need to have a place to call her or his own home. The gap also makes compliance with the federal mandate announced in the US Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. LC difficult to achieve. The Olmstead mandate is that state and local governments and other public entities have an obligation to serve people with disabilities in the most integrated setting possible.

The report only evaluated current renters. The report did not assess the housing needs of an estimated 2 million adults with disabilities living in institutions or other congregant settings, like group homes.

The report makes several recommendations and urges advocacy groups to use the data to urge state and federal legislatures and other public officials to take concrete steps to make more affordable housing units available by: (1) Funding Section 811 PRA Programs in all 50 States (which facilitates the creation of cost-effective, integrated housing units where individuals with disabilities pay no more than 30% of their adjusted income for housing costs); (2) Fully restoring House Choice Vouchers to pre-sequestration levels; (3) Expanding housing opportunities for SSI recipients through the National Housing Trust Fund (which was authorized in 2008 by Congress to provide communities with funds to build, preserve and rehabilitate rental homes for extremely-low-income households); and (4) Increasing wages and employment opportunities (through, for example, widespread implementation of the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act aimed at increasing opportunities for individuals facing barriers to employment), among other things.