Kevin Martone, L.S.W. is Executive Director of the Technical Assistance Collaborative wrote the following introduction to Priced Out.
Once again, Priced Out demonstrates that non-elderly adults with disabilities who rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are among the groups most severely affected by the extreme shortage of affordable rental housing across our nation.
Over the last decade, increased rental demand combined with development primarily at the high end of the market has led to record-low vacancy rates, higher rents, and increased competition for affordable and subsidized housing. This overall market trend is reflected in the ever-worsening affordability gap for extremely low-income renters with disabilities.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the federal income maintenance program that assists people with significant and long-term disabilities who have virtually no assets. In most instances, these individuals have no other source of income.
In 2016, the national average rent for a studio/efficiency unit was $752/month, equal to 99% of a monthly SSI payment. In thirteen states and the District of Columbia, areas with the highest housing costs in the nation, the average studio/efficiency rent exceeded 100% of the income of an SSI recipient.
In New Jersey 97,468 individuals rely on SSI receiving a monthly payment receiving $764 a month in SSI.
In New Jersey, SSI is only 15% of the area median income.
Individuals relying solely on SSI would have to pay 151% of their SSI income as rent for a one bedroom apartment in New Jersey.
And they would have to pay 132% of their SSI income as rent for an efficiency apartment in the state.
This housing affordability crisis deprives hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities of a basic human need: a place of their own to call home.
Because of the disparity between SSI income and rental housing costs, non-elderly adults with significant disabilities in our nation are often forced into homelessness or segregated, restrictive, and costly institutional settings such as psychiatric hospitals, adult care homes, nursing homes, or jails.
Ideally, there would be enough job opportunities that match the skills of people with disabilities and pay a livable wage so that all could afford housing in their communities.
Federal rental assistance – meaning a subsidy that helps renters pay no more than 30% of their income for housing – is the key to solving the housing crisis that has been documented in Priced Out reports over the past 19 years.
Unfortunately, because of funding limitations that have grown worse in recent years, federal rental subsidy programs currently reach only 35 of every 100 extremely low-income households.
With incomes equal to only 20% of area median income, one-person households receiving SSI fall within this category of extremely low-income households facing a severed shortage of affordable housing.
This shortfall translates into long waiting lists at Public Housing Agencies and affordable housing developments. There is a critical shortage of permanent supportive housing opportunities for people with significant disabilities who have SSI-level incomes.
The disability community needs a unified advocacy effort to support and potentially expand permanent supportive housing programs along with other rental assistance strategies.
Providing housing assistance to people with the most significant and long-term disabilities is not only the right thing to do, but is also more cost-effective than perpetuating the alternatives: costly institutional care, uncontrolled expenses to the health care system, and homelessness.