Old multiracial couple in love



Overview: The needs and wants of people with disabilities should be reflected in their housing accommodations.  Home for people with disabilities or special needs must be capable both in design and operational perspectives, but not at a cost that is severely unaffordable.  Subsidized housing opportunities along with access to appropriate supportive services allow people with disabilities to live as independently as possible and be a part of their communities.  However, the increasing population of people who are elderly, disabled veterans and people who have physical, intellectual or developmental disabilities are facing a housing crisis.  What’s more, people with disabilities are at a higher risk of being homeless.  Statistics from the National Alliance to End Homelessness states that there are 564,708 people experiencing homelessness and 269,991 (47.6%) are disabled and unable to work.  While federal programs are in place to help create solutions to meet the housing needs of people with disabilities, it is also up to communities to help improve the affordability and accessibility of supportive housing.  

Talking Points on Supportive Housing for People with Disabilities and Special Needs

Affordability of Supportive Housing

The affordability gap for people with disabilities has exponentially worsened in recent years.  This housing affordability crisis deprives hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities of a basic human need: a place of their own to call home.  A disability can be an additional burden for the elderly or non-elderly with very low incomes.  Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) attempts to address this group, but obtaining housing that is affordable and designed for someone with a disability can still be difficult.  According to the Priced Out: The Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities 2017 report, because of the disparity between Supplemental Security Income (SSI) income and rental housing costs, non-elderly adults with significant disabilities in our nation are often forced into homelessness or segregated, restrictive, and costly institutional settings such as psychiatric hospitals, adult care homes, nursing homes, or jails.  

Accessibility of Supportive Housing

An accessible home offers specific features or technologies to accommodate people with disabilities, such as lowered kitchen counters and sinks, roll-under stoves, widened doorways, wheel-in showers and raised electrical outlets.  For people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices, finding housing with even basic accessibility features is a difficult task. In addition, accessible units can be very costly to rent or purchase.

Housing Discrimination

The stigma surrounding disabilities remains pervasive as people with disabilities all too often face discrimination when seeking housing. In fact, complaints by people with disabilities often make up the majority of discrimination complaints received by HUD’s Fair Housing Enforcement Office. Multiple federal laws prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in public and privately funded housing.


1) Share your own story. Talking from your own personal experience about living with a disability or about someone you know who does is both powerful and effective.  

2) Educate the public about people living with disabilities or special needs and what can be done to improve housing affordability and accessibility. Create a place for discussion; help identify new solutions to the housing crisis for people with disabilities.

3) Market the proposal in a more attractive manner and develop new policy responses.  Present a case for supportive housing for people with disabilities that shows the benefits to the community as a whole as well as the individual.  


Benefits for People with Disabilities (Social Security)

Housing Issues for People with Disabilities (The Arc)

Mental Health America: Housing (MHA)

National Alliance to End Homelessness (EndHomelessness.org)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

National Housing Trust Fund (NLIHC)

New York/New York III Supportive Housing Evaluation, NYCDOHMH+NYCHRA+NYSOMH

Overcoming the Effects of NIMBYism (North Carolina Housing Coalition)

Priced Out: The Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities (Technical Assistance Collaborative, INC. Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force)

Public Housing (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)

Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)

Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)

Is someone you know with a disability in need of supportive housing?

Key programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that seek to increase affordable housing for people with disabilities include:

Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program. Section 811 is the only HUD program dedicated to producing affordable, accessible housing for non-elderly, very low-income people with significant disabilities. Section 811 was recently modernized by the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act to make the program more efficient and to increase the units that the program creates. As modernized by the Melville Act, Section 811 housing is typically integrated into larger affordable housing apartment buildings, and is linked with voluntary supports and services. Tenants pay 30% of their adjusted income for rent, which ensures affordability for people who receive SSI.

Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. HUD’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program helps very low-income families, the elderly, and people with disabilities afford rental housing in the private market.  A non-elderly (under age 62) person with a disability heads about 1 in 3 households using Section 8

vouchers.  Tenants must be low-income, and typically pay 30 % of their income for rent.  Participants must find their own housing, but can choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program.  Due to limited funding and high need, most parts of the country have long waiting lists for Section 8 vouchers.

Public Housing. Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single-family houses to high-rise apartments.  About 1 in 5 households living in public housing are headed by a non- elderly (under age 62) person with a disability.  Tenants must be low-income, and typically pay 30% of their income for rent.

National Housing Trust Fund. The National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) is a new, dedicated fund that will provide grants to states to build, preserve, and rehabilitate housing for people with the lowest incomes.

“People with Disabilities and Specials Needs” Success Stories

Counting Her Blessings: MS Patient Assumes New Life, Housing Stability, Healthier Outlook (Diana Hayes)

Trauma Survivor Passes on Wisdom in Last Stages of Life (Rocky Longendyke)

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