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Housing: Legislation

New Legislation Makes It Easier for Homebuying to be a Housing Option for People with Disabilities

October 30, 2001

Is it possible for a person with disabilities to own their own home?

Is it possible for people with disabilities to partake in what most Americans consider a fundamental right? Owning one's own home is part of the American dream, the dream of living independently and the ability to build assets while one can enjoy this living.

The House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Concerns stated that the overall home ownership rate for all people in the United States is approximately 67%, with some minorities registering as low as 20%. However, for people with disabilities the National Home of Your Own Alliance reports that less than 5% of all people with disabilities who receive social security income benefits own their own home.

Why do so few people with disabilities choose a home as a housing option?

Independence First of Milwaukee reported that a 1998 national Louis Harris poll, commissioned by the National Organization on Disability, found that 34% of people with disabilities have annual household incomes of $15,000 or less. People with disabilities have too low of income to save for a down payment or afford monthly house payments.

There is a housing crisis for people with disabilities. To understand how bleak the housing issue is for people with disabilities, see NHU's editorial on the Housing Crisis, which explores the various housing options available to people with disabilities and how those options remain unaffordable.

For example, rental housing has become an expensive housing option. HUD recently reported that rent prices increased more than twice the rate of national inflation in both 1997 and 1998. In 2001, HUD reported that their housing research identified very low-income households with adults with disabilities as a segment of the population having one of the worst housing needs of any group in the United States. Lower-income families are being continually priced out of the nation's safe and affordable rental market. In "Priced Out in 1998," the CCD Housing Task Force reported that there is not a single housing market in the United States, where a person with a disability receiving SSI benefits can afford to rent a modest efficiency apartment and nowhere can an SSI recipient rent a one-bedroom apartment for less than 50% of his or her income.

According to Sheila Crowley, President of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, "the housing crisis is caused by an insufficient supply and range of housing options for low-income members of a community. Poor people with disabilities are the most vulnerable to housing instability in this kind of housing market, and thus are over represented in among homeless people."

New Legislation is Making It Easier for Homeownership to be a Housing Option for People with Disabilities

In response to the housing situation, the new American Home Ownership and Economic Opportunity Act of 2000 H.R. 5640 Sec. 302, Pilot Program for Homeownership Assistance for disabled families became public law number :106-569, December 27, 2000.

Under Sec. 302, the Pilot Program for Homeownership Assistance for Disabled Families, the law states "in general - a public housing agency (PHA) providing tenant-based assistance on behalf of an eligible family under Section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937... may provide assistance for a disabled family that purchases a dwelling unit (including a dwelling unit under a lease-purchase agreement) that will be owned by one or more members of the disabled family and will be occupied by the disabled family..." For eligibility information, see the American Home Ownership and Economic Opportunity Act.

In addition, on October 12, 2000, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) new Section 8 Homeownership Program became effective. This new program has made it possible for people with disabilities to include home ownership as an affordable, accessible housing choice by allowing people with disabilities and their families to apply their monthly rent voucher instead toward the monthly mortgage payment for a home.

Local public housing authorities must choose to participate in the Homeownership Program. Therefore, not all public housing authorities are participating. In response to the recent legislation, Independent Living Centers are keeping local housing authorities to the task, asking for 15% voucher acceptance for people with disabilities. Contact your local Center for Independent Living for information on homebuying programs.

In the past for people with disabilities seeking home ownership, the only financial options had been discounted interest rates and down payment grants and loans. While, this program is a step toward providing innovative ways for people with disabilities to use the few resources they have available to them to obtain housing, this option may not be available to everyone.

For more information on programs and services that are helping people with disabilities obtain homes see Guide to Buying a Home of Your Own


American Home Ownership and Economic Opportunity Act

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

"Origin of the Alliance," National Home of Your Own Alliance

"Owning a home of your own, Expanding Our Thinking on Housing Choice" by Charlene Dwyer and Jerry Vogt, EBTIDE Inc., Advocacy Action News, June 2001, Issue 44, Independence First

Priced Out in 2000: The Crisis Continues by Ann O'Hara, Emily Miller, June 2000.

"Homeownership and Section 8 Vouchers" by Lee Schulz, Breaking Away, V22 #3, Fall 2001.

If you have questions or ideas, information and solutions that you would like to share with us, contact us by e-mail at: horizons@new-horizons.org or to use our NHU E-Mail Form or NHU Community Discussion Board, click the links below.

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[Updated November 30, 2001]
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