People with Disabilities Face Significant Affordability Challenges in the Rental Market

A report by the Technical Assistance Collaborative and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Priced Out: The Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities, calls attention to the affordability challenges that people with disabilities face in the rental housing market. Rents for a modest apartment in a number of markets can exceed the entire typical income of people with disabilities who rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to meet their basic needs.

SSI is a federal program that provides cash assistance to people with significant, long-term disabilities and less than $2,000 in wealth. Approximately 4.8 million adults with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 64 receive SSI income. In most cases, SSI is the only source of income they have to meet their expenses. The report shows that SSI payments are too low for recipients to afford their housing and other necessities without other housing assistance, like a Housing Choice Voucher. Nationally, the average Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a studio apartment was $752 per month. HUD’s FMR is the upper end of the monthly price range that families moving this year could expect to pay for a modest apartment (typically set at the 40th percentile of recent rents). An SSI recipient relying on the average SSI payment of $763 would have just $11 left to cover all other expenses after paying for their studio apartment.

The average FMR for a modest one-bedroom apartment is $861 per month, which is 113% of the average monthly income of a one-person SSI household. In nineteen states and the District of Columbia, the average monthly FMR for a one-bedroom apartment exceeded the average SSI payment. Rents for one bedroom apartments also exceeded SSI payments in the 220 most expensive housing markets in the US.

The high cost of housing, minimal SSI support, and inadequate resources to provide housing assistance to everyone who qualifies leave many renters with disabilities severely cost-burdened, paying more than 50% of their income on rent and utilities. Severely cost-burdened households must cut back on other necessities and are one financial emergency away from housing instability, risk of eviction, and homelessness. Evictions are a significant cause of homelessness, since an eviction makes it more difficult to secure new housing. The lack of affordable and accessible housing bars people with disabilities living in institutional settings from moving to community settings.

To solve the housing crisis facing low income people with disabilities, the report advocates for fully funding the Housing Choice Voucher program for all eligible households, expanding “mainstream” vouchers that serve extremely low income people with disabilities, funding in all 50 states the Section 811 Project Based Rental Assistance Program that provides project-based rental assistance for rental units serving low income people with disabilities, and increased funding for the national Housing Trust Fund that supports housing for households with extremely low incomes. The report also recommends ensuring equitable disaster recovery efforts for people with disabilities, enforcing and defending fair housing laws, supporting diversion and reentry programs for people with disabilities exiting incarceration, and using Medicaid to support housing-related services.

Priced Out: The Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities and an interactive data tool are available at: