Delaware advocates and state officials have a new tool to advance policies and regulations aimed at reducing impediments to obtaining affordable and accessible homes for low income people with disabilities. A recent report, Community and Choice: The Housing Needs of People with Disabilities in Delaware, analyzes the housing situations of people with disabilities in the state. The Delaware Housing Coalition (DHC), an NLIHC state partner, joined the Housing Sub-Committee of the Governor’s Commission on Community-Based Alternatives and the State Council for Persons with Disabilities in releasing the report in April.
The report’s authors comprised a working group convened to better understand the scope and nature of disability needs and provide more effective and appropriate responses. In Delaware, approximately 40% of people with disabilities have incomes below 200% of the poverty level, and they account for 19% of the population living in poverty. The growing shortage of affordable housing is a major concern for people with low incomes, but those with a disability face additional challenges given the limited availability of affordable homes with accessible features.
The working group hosted six focus groups with consumers of disability services, advocates and service providers to identify barriers to attaining affordable and accessible homes, recommendations to address them, and ways to increase the supply of housing for this population. The groups covered aging and physical disabilities, intellectual and developmental disabilities, substance abuse and mental health, HIV/AIDS, foster youth with disabilities, and housing developer and service provider concerns.
Participants reported the need to improve coordination among housing and disability housing programs and reduce confusion about varied eligibility requirements and multiple waiting lists. Also cited as priority areas were access to real-time information on available units, transportation and isolation issues in rural areas, support to help people age in place, and the need for new, creative housing options and initiatives for the population.
The working group recommended ways to increase both accessibility and access to rental and homeownership opportunities, such as reducing fair housing barriers to these homes and increasing accessibility features in the affordable housing industry. Other recommendations included increasing the availability of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties to people with disabilities, especially those with extremely low incomes, and building a community-based system of care with a range of housing options and improving the affordable housing and disabilities services systems.
“Affordable housing and disability advocates came together in an effort that was mutually educational and that will result in better understanding, more coordination across sectors, and increased affordable housing choice for Delawareans with disabilities,” said Ken Smith, Director for DHC.
Following the report’s release, the Delaware Housing Authority (DHA) agreed to implement a real-time locator to address the mismatch between people with disabilities who seek housing and landlords with accessible units that are not being utilized. SocialServe.com, an affordable housing locator service, is partnering with DHA and planning to make the locator available by the end of 2012.
DHA and the state’s Department of Health and Social Services also submitted a joint proposal to HUD for use of new Section 811 funds to provide integrated housing opportunities for people with disabilities (see Memo, 5/18). Meanwhile, advocates are working to improve state-level communication and coordination so that people with disabilities receive accurate housing assistance and information the first time they request it. Plans are underway to facilitate both the coordination of the state’s 211 help line with SocialServe.com and the implementation of centralized homeless intake in January 2013.
For more information, contact Ken Smith at email@example.com.