Disability Policy Seminar 2005
Partnership for Empowerment
The Arc AAMR AUCD United Cerebral Palsy NACDD
HOUSING FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES:
THE CRISIS ESCALATES
Being part of the community and living as independently as possible are among the most important
values and goals shared by people with disabilities and their families, and advocates. A home of one’s own –
either rented or owned, is the cornerstone of independence for people with disabilities. However, across the
nation, people with cerebral palsy, mental retardation and related disabilities face a crisis in the availability of
decent, safe, affordable, and accessible housing. Today many still live in large congregate facilities or other
inappropriate places like institutions. Approximately 750,000 people with developmental disabilities live with
aging parents (one of whom is over age 65). For people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices, finding
housing with even basic accessibility features (e.g. an entrance with no steps) ranges from daunting to
impossible. This difficulty is magnified in rural areas where there is a scarcity of any rental housing and new
units are rarely developed. In addition, the designation as “elderly-only” of almost half a million units of
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded public and assisted housing over the past 12
years has had a devastating impact on people with disabilities.
According to Priced Out in 2002, for the first time ever, the national average rent was greater than the
amount of income received by 3.7 million Americans with disabilities who rely on monthly Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) of $545 to pay for all their basic needs. Specifically, the average national rent for a
modest one bedroom rental unit in the United States rose to 105 percent of SSI – up from 98 percent in 2000. In
2002, of the nation’s 2,702 housing market areas, there was not one single area where modestly priced rental
units were affordable to people with disabilities receiving SSI.
Action Taken by Congress and the Administration
Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities (Section 811)
Section 811 provides housing for people with physical or developmental disabilities, or people with
chronic mental illness who are 18 years of age or older and have very low incomes (at or below 50 percent of
the area median income). Section 811 participants may live in supportive housing units developed and owned
by non-profit organizations or they may receive tenant-based rental assistance that helps them rent decent and
safe housing in the private rental market. Tenants pay 30 percent of their adjusted income for rent which
ensures affordability for those receiving SSI benefits.
The Administration’s FY 2006 budget proposes to slash Section 811 by 50% - dropping funds to $120
million from $238 million enacted in FY 2005. Most critically, the budget proposes to completely eliminate all
funding for new unit production in FY 2006 by zeroing out the capital advance component of the program. This
unprecedented cut ends an over 30 year commitment to support the production of new housing targeted to non-
elderly people with severe disabilities.
Section 811 is the only HUD program that produces affordable and accessible housing for non-elderly
people with disabilities. Historically HUD used 75 percent of Section 811 funds to provide interest-free capital
advances to non-profit sponsors to help finance the development of fully accessible rental housing such as
independent living projects, condominium units, and small group homes, many of which offer voluntary
supportive services for people with severe disabilities. The Section 811statute also allows HUD to use up to 25
percent of the program’s funds for tenant-based rental assistance (known as the “Mainstream Housing
Opportunity for People with Disabilities ” program).
Instead of maintaining the program’s longstanding commitment to production of new units, the
Administration’s FY 2006 budget proposes a total appropriation of $120 million to be spent as follows: $80
million to renew existing Mainstream vouchers, $5 million for project-based renewals (also known as PRACs,
which cover operating costs such as insurance and maintenance) and $35 million for new tenant-based
assistance (an estimated 1,000 – 1,100 vouchers). Therefore under the Administration’s proposal more than
70% of all 811 funds would be consumed by the cost of renewing (i.e. keeping in place) housing funded under
the program in previous years. Moreover, since 1997, when HUD started issuing “Mainstream” vouchers, it
has failed to provide policy guidance to Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) or adequately track these vouchers to
ensure that they were given to people with severe disabilities who are eligible for Section 811. Due to this lack
of oversight, disability advocates believe that some vouchers have been issued to many who are ineligible –
including non-disabled people.
Many people with severe disabilities either require supports or units with a higher degree of physical
accessibility that is available in the private market. By limiting Section 811 funding solely as tenant based
vouchers the Administration proposes a major change in the targeting of the Section 811 program – away from
people with severe disabilities, who have the most significant housing needs. This proposal will relegate these
individuals to institutions, nursing homes, or homeless shelters.
The disability community urges Congress to increase Section 811 funding by at least $129 million in
FY 2006 to restore the program to its FY 2004 funding level and to require HUD to reinstate the capital
advance/production component of the program.
Section 8 Rental Assistance
The Administration’s FY 2006 budget requests a total of $15.9 billion for the Section 8 Housing Choice
Voucher program, $14.1 billion of which is for voucher renewals. No funding is proposed for new/incremental
vouchers targeted for people with disabilities. This request will fund approximately 2 million vouchers – only
94 percent of the vouchers currently administered by PHAs. Full funding would allow PHAs to use all
vouchers authorized by Congress. Prior to FY 2004, Congress fully funded all vouchers, including (from 1997-
2001), vouchers targeted to people with disabilities. Since 2004 PHAs have not had sufficient funding to use all
of their authorized vouchers.
Increase funding for the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program by at
least $129 million to restore the program to its FY 2004 level ($249 million) and require HUD to
reinstate the program’s capital advance/production component;
Ensure that the Housing Choice Voucher program is adequately funded so that current Section 8
voucher holders will retain their vouchers; and
Oppose any proposals that would block grant the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.
House & Senate Appropriations Committees
House Committee on Financial Services
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee
For more information, please contact The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy Disability Policy Collaboration (202-
783-2229), Association of University Centers on Disabilities (301-588-8252), AAMR (202-387-1968), or