In 2009, 2.6 million very low income renter households had at least one non-elderly person with a disability. Nearly one million of these households (978,000) had severe housing problems and did not receive any housing assistance, HUD’s definition of households with “worst case housing needs.” These are the findings from a report released on March 24, which is itself a supplement to the 2009 Worst Case Housing Needs report released February 1 (Memo 2/4).
The supplemental report finds that renter households with a disabled member are more vulnerable than non-disabled households to housing problems such as severe rent burden (34% vs. 24%), severely inadequate housing (4% vs. 3%), and crowding, defined as more than 1 person per room (5% vs. 4%). This is in part because households with disabilities have much lower incomes. Related to this, disabled households are more than two times more likely to receive rental assistance than non-disabled households, and even among very low income households they are nearly twice as likely to receive assistance. Still, together the Worst Case Needs and supplemental reports both find that nearly a third of worst case needs households are likely to have at least one member with a physical or mental limitation.
This report is the first from HUD to use a set of six new questions from the American Housing Survey (AHS), the basis of the Worst Case Housing Needs reports, to determine disability. The new questions ask respondents directly about disabilities in the household. Previously, the report used a proxy based on a household’s receipt of assistance where eligibility was associated with disability such Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Comparisons to estimates in previous years based on this proxy suggest that while the incidence of worst case needs among disabled households increased from 2007 to 2009, the rate of increase (13%) was slower than in the very low income renter population as a whole where the increase in the worst case needs population was 20% over the same time period.
The report also concludes, however, that these numbers represent an undercount of the disabled among the worst case needs population. A comparison in the report to data sources such as the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the American Community Survey (ACS) suggests the number and rate of disability among the very low income renter population is substantially higher than the AHS reports. In particular, the report finds that while the AHS asks about six types of activity limitation and disability, the NHIS asks about nine.
The report, 2009 Worst Case Housing Needs of People with Disabilities: Supplemental Findings of the Worst Case Housing Needs 2009: Report to Congress can be found at http://www.huduser.org/portal/publications/affhsg/wcn_disability.html