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Posted Oct 5, 2012, 9:00 am
The Olmstead Decision of 1999 was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed that people with disabilities have the right to live in the community and not be institutionalized. Thirteen years since this ruling, people with disabilities are living in the community in large numbers and with their families - with almost one in three households having at least one person with a disability in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
However, the choice of community living options remains narrow for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD), with only 12 percent of people renting or owning their own apartments or homes, 22 percent living in congregate or institutional settings, and as many as 57 percent living with their families. (For a more detailed look at statuses and trends in residential services in the U.S. among the ID/DD population, click here.)
Nationally, there remains a lack of accessible, affordable, independent housing due to several barriers.
Discrimination towards people with disabilities in housing has been illegal since 1988 when disability was added as a protected group to the Fair Housing Act. In spite of this protection, a number of reports reveal that discrimination against people with disabilities persists.
Poverty also presents a formidable barrier to obtaining housing. HUD released a report, 2009 Worst Case Housing Needs of People with Disabilities, which found that households with people with disabilities continue to face more economic barriers than the general population. Data from the 2009 American Housing Survey also revealed that:
Lack of funding and housing options
Housing Choice vouchers are the most popular option of all public housing programs for people with disabilities administered through the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). The tenant-based vouchers are flexible and may be used to rent townhomes, apartments, and single-family homes in the private market, truly promoting community inclusion.
Unfortunately, in most urban areas, applications for these vouchers are not being accepted as there are too many people on the wait lists. Those that do have an open wait list tend to be in rural areas with limited access to transportation, and the wait list can be more than five years long. Some areas may choose to prioritize individuals on the wait list by disability status, but many do not. In lieu of vouchers, public housing wait lists continue to be lengthy and are often inaccessible to those with disabilities.
Recent federal actions have supported the Olmstead decision and the ADA by advancing initiatives that address these barriers and have redirected funding mechanisms into increasing community living options at the local level:
While there has been progress at the federal level, clearly, the U.S. has some work to do in expanding housing options for people with disabilities at the local level as barriers remain. In most cases, public input is required from the citizens in order for HUD to approve the spending plan submitted by each locality’s housing department to obtain funding.
Therefore, it is critical that proactive relationships are established with these housing departments by the disability community to address their needs and concerns in each department’s planning documents. In order to reverse the drought in housing options nationally, the disability voice has to be heard at home.
Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a leader in examining critical Arizona and regional issues, and is a catalyst for public dialogue. An Arizona State University resource, Morrison Institute uses nonpartisan research and communication outreach to help improve the state's quality of life.
McFadden is a policy analyst at the Morrison Institute.