New Report Shows Dramatic Increase in Housing Affordability Prices for Non-Elderly Adults with Mental Illness
In an update of data first compiled several years ago, a new report documents that individuals with severe disabilities face a worsened crisis accessing affordable housing. This new report, "Priced Out in 2000: The Crisis Continues," was published by The Technical Assistance Collaborative Inc. and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Housing Task Force earlier this month. Copies of Priced Out in 2000 and the initial report are available at the Web site for "Opening Doors," a publication on housing advocacy, at www.c-c-d.org/doors.html NAMI is a member of the CCD Housing Task Force and contributed to the production and publication of this report.
The report uses the federal housing affordability standard for very low-income households that suggests that no more than 30% of monthly income should be spent on housing. In 2000, the federal SSI program provided an individual with a disability a monthly income of $512. Based on that figure, the "Priced Out" report documents that in every state and major rental housing market, people with severe disabilities receiving SSI benefits were "priced out" of the market -- unable to afford a modest efficiency or one bedroom apartment.
In addition to findings at the national level, this report also includes geographically specific income and housing cost data for people with disabilities receiving SSI in each of the 2,703 housing market areas of the United States. According to the report, individuals receiving SSI are among the lowest income households in the country. Compared to the hourly minimum wage of $5.15, the SSI monthly benefit is equal to $3.23 per hour, up a meager 14 cents from 1998.
- People with disabilities continued to be the poorest people in the nation. As a national average, SSI benefits in 2000 were equal to only 18.5 percent of the one-person median household income, and fell below 20 percent of median income for the first time in over a decade.
- In 2000, people with disabilities receiving SSI benefits needed to pay - on a national average - 98 percent of their SSI benefits in order to be able to rent a modest one-bedroom unit at Fair Market Rent, published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
- Cost of living adjustments to SSI benefit levels did not keep pace with the increasing cost of rental housing. Between 1998 and 2000, rental housing costs rose almost twice as much as the income of people with disabilities.
- In 2000, there was not one single housing market in the country where a person with a disability receiving SSI benefits could afford to rent a modest efficiency or one-bedroom unit.
- "Housing wage" data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows that people with disabilities who received SSI benefits needed to triple their income to be able to afford a decent one-bedroom unit. On average, SSI benefits are equal to an hourly rate of $3.23, only one third of the National Low Income Housing Coalition's housing wage, and almost $2 below the federal minimum wage.
From NAMI's perspective this report contains important data about the inability of single adults with severe mental illnesses to sufficiently access decent, safe, and affordable housing. Numerous studies have shown that stable, affordable housing is the cornerstone of recovery, positive treatment outcomes, and successful community reintegration. This study graphically demonstrates that people with mental illness living on SSI are simply priced out of our nation's rental housing market - people who should be among the most deserving of housing assistance. Unfortunately, our nation's affordable housing system has a mixed record in serving non-elderly adults with severe mental illnesses (both in terms of HUD programs and state and local agencies).
In the absence of a stronger commitment from the affordable housing system, people with severe mental illnesses will increasingly be forced to rely on inappropriate alternatives, such as living at home with aging parents, in crowded homeless shelters, in institutions or nursing homes, and (increasingly) in state and local jails and prisons. The stress on these inappropriate settings are certain to be compounded over the next few years as states come under pressure to move people with severe disabilities from institutions into the community under the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision. This report contains a series of recommendation for federal, state and local policymakers to refocus their housing policies, programs and resources to ensure that people with severe disabilities do not continue to be "priced out" of the housing market.
NAMI advocates can find additional valuable information on affordable housing issues for people with severe mental illnesses through the NAMI policy web page at www.nami.org or at the Opening Doors Webs ite at www.c-c-d.org/doors.html. NAMI advocates can also visit the TAC website at www.tacinc.org/ and the CCD Housing Task Force website at www.c-c-d.org/tf-housing.htm.
It is expected that a key House subcommittee will soon take up consideration of the FY 2002 Budget with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). NAMI is continuing to advocate for greater share of HUD's $30 billion dollar budget to be targeted to non-elderly adults living on SSI. Specifically, NAMI is pushing Congress to include the following items in HUD's budget:
- incentives for states and localities to target their large, mainstream block grant programs (HOME and CDBG) to develop rental housing serving people with severe disabilities,
- a set aside of $40 million dollars for tenant-based rental assistance for people with disabilities adversely affected by designations of public and assisted housing as "elderly only,"
- a substantial increase in funding for the section 811 program, up to $346 million dollars,
- continuation of the 30 percent permanent housing set aside in the McKinney - Vento Homeless Assistance Program with separate funding for renewal of all expiring Shelter Plus Care and SHP permanent housing rent subsidies.
A copy of NAMI 's testimony before Congress on the HUD budget can be accessed on the NAMI Web site at http://www.nami.org/update/vahudappr.html