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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL Position Paper: Housing

Adopted July, 2013

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) supports independent living for persons with disabilities and believes community living is a right. However, there is a wealth of data and information that documents that there is a critical lack of affordable, accessible, healthy / nontoxic, decent, safe and integrated housing for persons with disabilities as well as a high incidence of housing discrimination committed against persons with disabilities.

There are numerous studies documenting the prevalence of housing discrimination against persons with disabilities, which continues to be a top cause of fair housing complaints. NCIL believes that greater education is needed among those in the housing industry – including but not limited to realtors, developers, managers, housing counselors, and others. NCIL urges more funding toward educating housing professionals on the housing needs and the rights of persons with disabilities. But we cannot depend on education alone; there has to be a vigorous enforcement of our nation’s housing laws, and NCIL urges additional funding to enforce fair housing laws and policies – local, state and federal.

NCIL believes that for those households that cannot afford housing, Housing Choice Vouchers are the most effective way to provide integrated housing assistance options for persons with disabilities. NCIL urges additional funding for this program, and opposes efforts by local communities to convert tenant-based vouchers into project-based vouchers. This reduces the number of Housing Choice Vouchers available to the community and restricts housing options for many.

NCIL applauds the improvements passed in 2011 to the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program, which will provide more integrated housing options for people with disabilities.

NCIL also applauds efforts to assist our nation’s returning veterans, but NCIL is dismayed by the segregation bent of many housing programs and services available to veterans. In order to improve integration, NCIL believes that a cultural competency needs to be developed by service providers for working with people with disabilities of different beliefs, faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and others.

Consecutive presidential administrations have made a commitment to support the Olmstead v. L.C. decision, ushering in a new era of community living. Despite efforts, far too many of our brothers and sisters continue to languish in nursing facilities and other institutional settings. NCIL urges the additional allocations of housing vouchers and units specifically for persons with disabilities who are moving from institutions to the community, as well as those who are at risk of institutional placement. NCIL supports the continuation of Money Follows the Person funding to provide supportive services for people transitioning into the community.

NCIL also recognizes the high incidence of disabilities in the correctional system, and urges better policies on diversion and assisting people integrating back into society.

Many households will find themselves limited in their housing search by the lack of available housing options in many communities. NCIL supports the funding of the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would be used to produce, rehabilitate, and preserve affordable housing units. The Trust Fund targets people with extremely low income. Many people with disabilities have extremely low household incomes, and will benefit from the units assisted by the Trust Fund.

The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is a program that has funded many affordable units around the nation. Unfortunately, LIHTC is not affordable for people with extremely low income, so NCIL urges state housing finance agencies to adopt policies to encourage deeper income targeting of LIHTC units. NCIL supports increasing the amount of LIHTC allocations available to states, and believes that the LIHTC program should be considered federal funding, with the accessibility requirements of Section 504. Currently, developers using the tax credits only have to comply with the Fair Housing laws and whatever additional accessibility mandates or incentives the state chooses to employ. NCIL urges the state housing finance authorities to proactively enforce the fair housing design requirements.

Inaccessible housing is an ongoing challenge for persons with disabilities. Currently, far too much of our nation’s housing stock is inaccessible for many persons with disabilities. NCIL urges a more proactive approach to housing construction and rehabilitation to improve accessibility. Approaches can include incorporating Visitability and / or Universal Design into single-family housing and multi-family housing, as well as an increase in the accessibility requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. That would require that at a minimum (a) 10% of all housing (not just multi-family) constructed or substantially renovated with federal funds be fully accessible to persons with mobility disabilities, (b) 2% be fully accessible to persons with sensory disabilities, and (c) 2% be fully accessible to persons with environmental sensitivities. NCIL believes that state and local funding sources should include improved accessibility requirements.

We cannot forget people who lack housing; people who are seeking emergency housing and those who should have access to accessible homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, transitional housing, and disaster emergency housing. Each community’s Continuum of Care and Emergency Preparedness Commission should do a thorough assessment to ensure that those facilities and programs are accessible.

Some households may require accommodations to programs and services. For instance, many people with disabilities utilize housing through Public Housing Agencies (PHAs), whether units or vouchers. NCIL believes that as a vital resource for people with disabilities, PHAs, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), must do better. Some improvements include providing higher voucher payments and / or additional time as a reasonable accommodation for households with disabilities seeking housing. HUD should provide PHAs additional authority and funding to do so at a higher level. HUD should provide oversight and enforcement to ensure those policies are being followed.

The core of any planning, whether in communities or nationally, is data. NCIL urges improvements in the data collection on housing and persons with disabilities. Currently, data collection is ineffective and there is no realistic method to identify the gap in affordable and accessible housing for persons with disabilities.

A great deal of affordable housing is funded by the federal government; yet federal housing policies are often developed without the participation of persons with disabilities. Very often this limits the choices available to persons with disabilities.

The heart of NCIL’s housing advocacy is to promote housing choices so that persons with disabilities have access to affordable, accessible, healthy / nontoxic, decent, safe and integrated housing options.