Report Finds 6.8 Million Households Experience Accessibility Challenges in Their Homes

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS) released a new report, “How Well Does the Housing Stock Meet Accessibility Needs? An Analysis of the 2019 American Housing Survey.” The report finds that approximately 5% of households report difficulty navigating or using their homes and that such difficulties are especially common among older households and people with disabilities. The report uses American Housing Survey data to assess housing fit based on whether respondents report difficulties getting around or using their homes. Across all households, the most common accessibility issues reported included difficulties entering a home, using the bathroom, and using the kitchen. The report finds that in addition to older adults and people with disabilities, Black and Latino households and households with lower incomes are more likely to experience poor housing fit.

The authors used data from the 2019 American Housing Survey’s Accessibility Module to assess common housing fit challenges and trends across demographic groups. Poor housing fit can limit the ways a resident uses and navigates their home. For example, residents with wheelchairs or walkers may not be able to access certain rooms or floors in their homes. These residents may also have to depend on others to complete daily tasks like laundry or food preparation, even when these tasks could be completed independently with appropriate modifications.

The report finds that 6.8 million households report difficulties navigating or using their homes – approximately 5% of all households. The most commonly reported problem was difficulty entering the home, experienced by 4.2 million households. Difficulties using the bathroom and kitchen were the most commonly reported challenges within the home, with 3.3 and 3.2 million households reporting these problems, respectively. These difficulties are understandable given the limited supply of homes with basic accessibility features, such as no-step entry, single-floor living, grab bars, widened doorways, and levered door handles. Only 42% of homes, for example, have both a no-step entryway and single-floor living.

The report finds that as residents age, their likelihood of reporting a disability also increases, leading to worsened housing fit. Sixty percent of heads of households age 80 or older report a disability, for example, compared to 9% of heads of households under age 50. Difficulty walking or climbing stairs is the primary challenge reported among older adults. Of all households that reported difficulty entering a kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom, half were headed by someone age 65 or over.

Older renters were more likely than homeowners to experience poor housing fit, with renters aged 65 or older six percentage points more likely to experience poor housing fit than homeowners of the same age.

The report also finds that poor housing fit is more common among Black and Latino households and households with lower incomes. Ten percent of households with incomes under $30,000 experienced poor housing fit, while 3% of households with incomes over $75,000 reported the same. Older Black and Latino households also reported greater difficulties using and navigating their homes compared to white households. Among households headed by someone age 80 or older, 28% of Black and 24% of Latino households reported poor housing fit compared to 16% of white households in the same age group.

Read the report at: