The Challenges of Housing for People with Disabilities

Affordable and accessible housing for people with disabilities is not the easiest thing to secure. In fact, being priced out of the housing market is an epidemic that has spread throughout the disabled community for years. A 2012 joint study by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC), uncovered that “as many as two million non-elderly people with disabilities reside in homeless shelters, public institutions, nursing homes, unsafe and overcrowded board and care homes, at home with aging parents or segregated group quarters—often due to lack of affordable housing in the community.”

Approximately 4.8 million adults with disabilities (between the ages of 18-64) rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to meet their basic needs. SSI is a federal program that provides financial assistance to people with significant, long-term disabilities and less than $2,000 in wealth. SSI is oftentimes the only source of income they have to meet their expenses, and unfortunately, in most cases, the payments are too low for recipients to afford housing and other necessities without housing assistance.

In this article, we will explore the challenges of housing for people with disabilities as well as available resources to help secure quality and affordable housing.

Obstacles to Quality Housing

The challenges to securing appropriate housing are numerous. However, the three main culprits that rise to the top include:

  • Affordability is a significant barrier to adults with disabilities when securing quality housing. Due to limited support, adults with disabilities often pay more than 50% of their income on rent and utilities.
  • Accessibility is a critical component of housing for individuals with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations include wheelchair-accessible entrances, wider doorways, raised electrical outlets, and lower kitchen surfaces.
  • Discrimination is unfortunately experienced by many people with disabilities. The Fair Housing Act prohibits the discrimination of an individual based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability; however, it still occurs. If you or a loved one have experienced discrimination, check out our blog on Housing Discrimination for People with Disabilities.

Housing Programs for People With Disabilities

Thanks to key federal housing initiatives, adults with disabilities are given opportunities to live independently.

  • The Arc is an important program that believes having or renting one’s own home is the cornerstone of independence for people with disabilities. The Arc advocates to protect and improve federal housing laws and regulations to help individuals with I/DD secure affordable and quality housing.
  • Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a Cabinet department in the executive branch of the U.S. federal government responsible for national policy and programs that address America’s housing needs, improve and develop the Nation’s communities, and to enforce fair housing laws. Below are a handful of critical programs supported by HUD.
    • Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program seeks to identify, stimulate, and support successful and innovative state approaches to providing integrated supportive housing for people with disabilities.
    • Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers help the elderly, very low-income (less than 50% of median income) families, and people with disabilities afford rental housing in the private market.
    • National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) is a new, dedicated fund that provides grants to states to build, preserve, and rehabilitate housing for people with the lowest incomes.
    • Public Housing Authority (PHA) offerings range from high-rise apartments to single-family homes. It was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities.

Adult Family Homes for Independent Living

Many individuals with disabilities live with aging caregivers (60+). As this generation of caregivers continues to age, many of their adult children with I/DD may be at risk of institutionalization or homelessness.

Encouraging independence is crucial for individuals to live full, enriched lives, and an Adult Family Home can be an excellent solution. Adult Family Homes (AFHs) are residences where three or four adults who are not related to the operator reside and receive care, treatment or services that are above the level of room and board. They adhere to state regulations and are built or modified with accommodations including but not limited to wheelchair ramps, wider doorways, and lower countertops.

In an AFH, individuals with disabilities improve technical and social skills, and are able to live independently with support nearby. Covey is excited to announce that in the spring of 2022, we will open our first AFH located in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This 4 bedroom, 2.5-bathroom residence offers an inclusive living environment for individuals with disabilities seeking greater independence. If you or a loved one is interested in this opportunity, you can connect with us at info@covey.org and follow us on Facebook for updates!