What Happens When Housing Becomes Unaffordable for People With Disabilities

A new report from disability advocacy groups shows that housing costs in the United States are climbing beyond the reach of people with disabilities, with housing costs in some rental markets exceeding 100 percent of average monthly Social Security Income (SSI) benefits. This poses a huge cost burden to people with disabilities in the United States and illustrates the urgent need to adjust benefits so they keep pace with inflation, ensuring that households aren’t struggling to afford the basic costs of living. Without such measures, people with disabilities may be forced to make dangerous housing choices, or they may be forced into institutional settings — which could mean that the government is violating the integration mandate in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Under the ADA, people with disabilities must be housed in community settings if such housing is appropriate and their desire to live in their communities can be reasonably accommodated. This was affirmed in a 1999 Supreme Court decision which explicitly called the government to task on the issue. For the government, the mandate is crystal clear: Any reasonable steps must be taken to help people with disabilities live in their communities, whether that’s independently, in mixed residential settings, or in halfway houses with support. Yet, the housing crisis could force people with disabilities into the very facilities they’re fighting to escape.

People with disabilities aren’t the only ones facing problems with housing affordability, of course. Low-income households, many of which include older adults and people with disabilities, routinely pay more than half their income in rent; for context, the government considers any household paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent to be “cost burdened.” Notably, housing assistance in the United States is not keeping pace with the needs of low-income people facing skyrocketing rental costs, not just in traditionally expensive markets like New York and San Francisco, but also other communities across the nation. For people with disabilities however, affordability is especially hard.

According to the Social Security Administration, average SSI benefits amount to $541.73. Beneficiaries on Social Security Disability Insurance, who receive income boosted by payments made during their working years, receive an average of $1,016.88. Those on benefits are also eligible for Medicare or Medicaid, depending on their circumstances — these government programs can help with medical expenses, but they don’t address costs of living like food and utilities. While the cost of living is wildly disparate in the United States, these below poverty line wages are clearly inadequate to the housing needs of most people with disabilities and their families.

For people with disabilities who are able to find housing at this income level, life can be tenuous. “Affordable” housing in this setting is often only available in potentially dangerous neighborhoods, and people may be forced onto a shoestring budget that leaves them vulnerable to any financial crisis. Some may opt to live with roommates or partners, but the high cost of rent means that if abusive or dangerous situations arise, they can’t afford to leave. Homelessness can be a constant risk, and for people with disabilities, homelessness can be particularly challenging — it’s hard to get medical treatment and retain needed services when people don’t have a stable place to live.

The “Priced Out” report shows that the United States is facing a major problem when it comes to supporting the disability community. It’s clearly necessary to increase federal benefits to people with disabilities, as well as state programs that provide assistance with costs like paying personal care attendants and affording food. If these benefits aren’t increased, grounds for a suit could arise: Is the government doing enough to uphold the integration mandate? If it’s not, it may be running the risk of being called accountable — again — for not adhering to its own legislation.

Photo credit: smerikal

77 comments

Jeanne R
Jeanne R2 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R2 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R2 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R2 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Batista S.
Past Member 1 years ago

The superb highly informative blog I’m about to share this with all my contacts.
Poway real estate broker

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Tom S.
.1 years ago

This short article posted only at the web site is truly good.
Terry Paranych Real Estate

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Jo Recovering
Jo S2 years ago

There must be a better way!
Thanks Cody.

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Janis K.
Janis K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Sherri S.
Sherri S2 years ago

I am upset that this atrocity is taking place in the United States of America. Shame on our government for giving hand outs to those that sometimes don't deserve or need them and let those that do need them go without. There has to be a better way.......

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Renee M.
Renee M2 years ago

So sad. Unfortunately this isn't the first time (and won't be the last) that government makes rules and mandates but doesn't provide sufficient financial means to actually make those rules and mandates possible.

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