Low-Income Housing Options for People with Disabilities

Posted by Pam Hill in HousingFebruary 8, 2023(Last Updated February 24, 2023)4 min read
Key Takeaways
  • October is National Disability Employment Awareness month. 
  • A lack of affordable housing near good-paying jobs disproportionately impacts people with disabilities.
  • Federal, state, and local programs, provide low-income housing options for the disabled.
Are you ready to make some real money moves?

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). NDEAM highlights the many contributions made by Americans with disabilities and showcases examples of proactive and inclusive engagement.


The theme for NDEAM 2022, “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation,” recognizes the broad spectrum of roles that people with disabilities play in an equitable workforce. This year's theme highlights the connection between good-paying jobs and affordable housing.


woman with disability

Image Credit: pikselstock / Shutterstock.com


A lack of accessible, affordable housing in high-density job areas such as cities and downtown districts can disproportionately impact disabled workers, who may have limited transportation access to jobs in suburban areas. Consequently, the prospect of homelessness can be a real risk for people with a disability. In this article, we will explore housing programs and resources geared toward people with disabilities.


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Federal Government Agencies that Support Vulnerable Populations


Individuals with disabilities historically have faced discrimination and accessibility challenges that have limited their opportunity to live independently in the community. These obstacles include a shortage of affordable and integrated housing opportunities. As a consequence, people with significant or long-term disabilities are often at greater risk of homelessness or living in settings that are institutional or isolated.  


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are two agencies that place a special emphasis on housing individuals and families who have health, economic, or other challenges. In addition, state, county, and municipal housing and health and human service agencies provide an additional source of funding and programming.


HUD Services


The Housing Choice Voucher Program


choosing the right house

Image Credit: Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock.com


The Housing and Urban Development agency helps low-income households. It particularly helps those with disabilities, and the elderly, to afford housing through its largest rental assistance program, the Housing Choice Voucher program. This program is also referred to as Section 8 housing, and housing choice vouchers can be used to pay a household’s rent in full or in part, depending on the family's total income.  


Families can choose to use their voucher to rent homes, including apartments, single-family houses, townhouses, manufactured housing, and subsidized housing projects, thus underscoring the ‘choice’ in Housing Choice Vouchers.  


Once a family has determined the type of residence they would like to live in and the location— urban, suburban, rural, or anything in between— the family contacts landlords with homes that meet their criteria.  Not all landlords accept Housing Choice Vouchers, so this can be one of the biggest barriers to finding a home. Once a family and the landlord agree on a home, the housing subsidy is then paid directly to the landlord on behalf of the family.


Recommended Read: Rent vs. Own: Which Housing Option Is Best For You


Eligibility for housing vouchers is determined by state, county, and local public housing agencies, which implement the Housing Choice Voucher program at a local level. The program is limited to U.S. citizens and specified categories of non-citizens with eligible immigration status. Housing authorities calculate the voucher amount based on the family’s annual gross income and size. Generally, the family's income must be 50% or less of the average income for the county or metropolitan area where the family will live. 


By law, 75% of all the vouchers a housing authority provides must go to very low-income families whose gross income is 30% or less of the area’s average income. For example, if the average income for a particular zip code, called the median income by HUD, is $50,000 for a family of four, then using the 50% test, a family of four must earn $25,000 or less to qualify for a HUD voucher. Using the 30% test, three-quarters of all the vouchers issued by the housing authority for that area must go to households who earn no more than 30% of $50,000, or $15,000. 


Section 811 Subsidies


HUD’s 811 program uses housing as a platform to improve the quality of life and create inclusive communities for persons with disabilities, particularly those who are homeless or are living in high-cost institutional settings. The 811 program provides subsidies for rental property for extremely low-income households, where at least one individual in the household has a disability and is at least 18 years old and less than 62 years old at the time of lease signing. 


The person with a disability must be eligible for community-based, long-term services as provided through Medicaid waivers, Medicaid state plan options, state-funded services, or other services supporting the target population.


Services Offered by HHS 


housing for people with disabilities

Image Credit: Jamie Hooper / Shutterstock.com


The Administration for Community Living


The Department of Health and Human Services provides housing assistance through its agency, the Administration for Community Living (ACL). The Administration for Community Living plays an advocacy role by championing the rights and needs of people with disabilities, older adults, and caregivers across the federal government. Through monitoring the funding, the ACL also ensures programs and resources are implemented at the state and non-profit levels. In addition, training programs, workshops, and research provided at the community level help supplement the efforts of non-profits and other groups. 


One of ACL’s core objectives is to fund public housing programs that are accessible across a wide range of abilities, from mobility to visual to intellectual. ACL seeks to achieve this by using small group residences to integrate and engage its residents within the community, versus the historical model of isolated, institutional settings.   


A second goal of ACL is to promote independent, self-sufficient living with appropriate support. ACL’s Centers for Independent Living collaborate with state agencies to provide tools and supports for integrating people with disabilities. These resources allow for a fuller participation in the community, leading to enhanced opportunities, self-determination, and dignity.


The Money Wrap-Up


Low-income people with a disability will likely find it incredibly challenging to obtain accessible, affordable rental housing. Housing options for low-income individuals with disabilities and their families are available primarily through HUD vouchers and HHS supportive services. That said, many states, counties, and municipalities run their own housing assistance programs in parallel with those offered by federal agencies, so it pays to explore federal and local options. 


Main Image Credit: mentalmind / Shutterstock.com

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