A proper home is vital for people and is the cornerstone of many American communities. Yet, affordable housing is sometimes a challenge for people with developmental disabilities. In fact, finding affordable, available and accessible housing is often difficult for people with developmental and physical disabilities.
The Challenge of Affordability:
According to some sources, the affordability gap for people with disabilities has exponentially worsened over the past few years. Roughly 4.9 million non-institutionalized Americans with disabilities who rely on federal monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have incomes averaging only $8,995 per year. At this financial level, their incomes are so low that they are effectively priced out of nearly every rental housing market in the nation. According to data from 2014, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $780 per month. For SSI beneficiaries living independently, this is a difficult rental price to meet.
Disability Rights Ohio states that programs do exist that are intended to help people seeking housing. These programs also provide different options for having modifications done to a current home. Some institutions and organizations are providing offers training and education opportunities for professionals who wish to respond to the increasing demand for home modification services. They also serve as a clearinghouse for home modification to equip professionals and consumers with a comprehensive inventory of resources such as a National Directory of Home Modification and Repair Resources.
While not specifically created for individuals with developmental disabilities, there are some parallels in purpose. These programs are dedicated to promoting aging in place and independent living for persons of all ages and abilities. However, industry observers argue that additional financial resources are needed.
In the state of Ohio, government officials are exploring solutions for the lack of stable and affordable housing. There is a connection between proper housing and an individual’s overall health, as well as a community’s social stability. Advocates for affordable housing and people with disabilities both agree that Ohio needs more affordable housing.
In central Ohio alone, 17 percent of Franklin County families struggle with severe housing problems because of high costs. In Delaware County, 10 percent of families have such problems; in Pickaway and Madison counties, 11 percent; in Licking and Union counties, 12 percent; and, in Fairfield County, 13 percent.
Additional Government Funding:
Recently, additional federal funds have been allocated to the states. Millions of dollars in housing assistance has been directed to assist in housing for individuals with disabilities. In many U.S. states, people with disabilities will receive help accessing housing in the community thanks to an infusion of millions in federal dollars. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued $98.5 million in housing assistance specifically targeted to help those with disabilities.
The funding is part of the HUD’s Section 811 Mainstream Housing Choice Voucher Program, which helps housing agencies assist people with disabilities ages 18 to 62 who are leaving institutional settings for community-based living situations as well as those at risk for institutionalization or homelessness. The goal is to make sure people with disabilities have a proper, safe and affordable place to live. The agency is working closely with local partners in order to help residents with disabilities live independently and fully enjoy the use of their homes.
The federal funding will go to public housing authorities in 47 states and Washington, D.C. It provides housing vouchers to nearly 12,000 individuals. In order to receive funding through the Section 811 Mainstream Housing Choice Voucher Program, housing agencies are encouraged to partner with health and human services agencies to provide supports that enable individuals to live independently in the surrounding community.
Beyond Medicaid Waivers and Neighboring States:
The Medicaid Waiver Program provides financial assistant for individuals with developmental disabilities. However, the lack of affordable housing extends beyond the Medicaid Waiver program. There is a lack of affordable housing is a larger problem in healthcare and American society at-large. Like many states, Pennsylvania has a shortage of affordable housing. Research indicates that people with unstable housing are more likely to have chronic health conditions and less access to regular medical care.
Pennsylvania has a network of personal care homes that provide housing and services for adults who need help with their daily activities. These adults do not require a nursing home level of care, but they do need assistance with everyday activities. These services are critical for Pennsylvania’s senior population since this population is growing at a rate 20 times faster than the overall population of the state.
Many states beyond Ohio and Pennsylvania are having challenges with finding affordable housing for individuals with disabilities as well as other at-risk populations. Additional challenges already exist due to the labor shortage of direct support professionals (DSPs) and other direct care staff. As the size of these populations grow, federal and state governments will need to meet this need.
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