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The Future of the Disability Housing Market

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RISMedia, June 6, 2011—Americans living with disabilities struggle every day to find affordable and accessible housing on low incomes. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia will join Inglis Foundation and the Disability Opportunity Fund from 9 a.m. until 3:15 p.m. on June 14 to inform organizations interested in developing such housing of existing challenges, new HUD initiatives and financing opportunities.

Individuals living with disabilities—who are often among the nation’s poorest citizens—can find it challenging to locate affordable and accessible housing, and the organizations who serve these individuals find it equally challenging to help them due to constrained funding and a shortage of resources.

The conference is intended to inform professionals from organizations interested in developing affordable and accessible housing for people with disabilities of existing challenges, new U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) initiatives, and financing opportunities.

Lauren DeBruicker, Esq. partner, Duane Morris, LLP, Philadelphia, and Alysse Einbender, Landscape Architect, Glenside, PA, Inglis Foundation board members, know just how difficult it is to find truly accessible and affordable living space when you are living with a disability. DeBruicker became disabled due to a car accident while attending Stanford University, and Einbender became disabled from a rare neurological condition. Both were frustrated in their attempts to find truly accessible housing and had to do extensive remodeling each time they had to move.

Making a home accessible can include remodeling the bathroom and kitchen to make them functional for a wheelchair user, installing ramps leading to the front and back doors of the home, pulling up carpet and installing floors for the mobility of the chair. Bathroom renovations can include reworking entry and access to shower and vanity. Kitchen renovations can include lowering cabinets and creating space below stove and sink for wheelchair access. Renovation costs average $25,000 – $50,000 per household.

Unlike a majority of the disabled population, Einbender and DeBruicker are both working professionals and they still faced steep challenges when trying to find appropriate and accessible living space. The great majority of disabled adults are on SSI and living near or below the poverty line.

Facts & Statistics on Housing for the Disabled

• People with disabilities who rely on SSI as their sole source of income continue to be the nation’s poorest citizens. In 2008, the annual income of a single individual receiving SSI payments was $8,016—equal to only 18.6 percent of the national median income for a one-person household and almost 30 percent below the 2008 federal poverty level of $10,400.

• In 2008, as a national average, a person receiving SSI needed to pay 112.1 percent of their monthly income to rent a modest one-bedroom unit. People with disabilities were also priced out of smaller studio/efficiency units which averaged 99.3 percent of monthly SSI.

• Since 1998, the amount of monthly SSI income needed to rent a modest one-bedroom unit has risen an astonishing 62 percent—from 69 percent of SSI in 1998 to 112.1 percent of SSI in 2008.

• In 2008, 219 housing market areas across 41 states had modest one-bedroom rents that exceeded 100 percent of monthly SSI, including 25 communities with rents over 150 percent. Between 2006-2008, the number of market areas with modest rents higher than SSI rose from 164 to 219—a 34 percent increase. For the first time, there were 3 housing market areas—Honolulu (HI), Columbia City (MD), and Nantucket County (MA)—where SSI recipients needed to spend over 200 percent of their income for a modest 1- bedroom housing unit—not only an impossibility, but absurd.

• Since 1998, the value of SSI payments compared to median income has declined precipitously—from 24.4 percent of median income in 1998 to 18.6 percent in 2008—while national average rents have skyrocketed. The national average rent for a modest one-bedroom unit rose from $462 in 1998 to $749 in 2008 —an increase of 62 percent.

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