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HUD Study Describes the Housing Problems of Those with Disabilities

(from Memo to Members of the NLIHC) A study recently released by HUD website demonstrates a positive correlation between rent burden and the incidence of disabilities among respondents to HUD’s American Housing Survey (AHS). The study was initiated because, for the first time, the AHS included the same six questions regarding disabilities that are used in the American Community Survey (ACS), the Current Population Survey (CPS), and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Although the study was initially undertaken to explain significant statistical differences in the estimates given by the AHS and ACS of the number of households with residents with disabilities in the United States, it also recognizes that the new AHS data provide a unique opportunity to investigate the relationship between people with disabilities and their housing circumstances.

One of the major findings from the study is that lower income households are much more likely to include one or more members with a disability than high income households. Thirty percent of households with members with one or more disabilities are extremely low income, a rate that is three times greater than the percentage among households with extremely high incomes (9.8%). The researchers attribute this to the fact that one-third of all households with people with disabilities are single-person households and the earning potential of households, especially single-person households, is limited by having a member with a disability.

Furthermore, rent-burdened households (those paying more than 30% of income on housing costs) are significantly more likely than other households to include one or more residents with a disability. While the proportion of households with one or more residents with a disability was 15% among households whose ratio of rent to gross income was 20% or less, that proportion climbed to 17.3% among households whose rent made up 30-40% of their total income. Among households whose rent exceeded their gross income, the incidence of disability was 27%.

Other findings were related to the type, location, and age of respondents’ dwellings. Although the incidence of disability among people living single-family homes and multi-unit structures was not significantly different (16.9% and 17.3%, respectively), incidence in mobile homes was much higher (25.8%). A member with a disability was also much more likely among households in urban or rural areas (21.9% and 21.7% respectively) than in suburban areas (between 15.3% and 16.9%). Additionally, residents with disabilities were more likely to be found in older homes: 19% of homes built between 1950 and 1969 had one or more member with a disability, compared with only 13% of homes built after 1990. Finally, the percentage of households with members with disabilities is higher among those renters who live in subsidized housing (38.1%) than those living in market housing (14.5%).

Although the researchers did not feel they had been able to conclusively account for the statistical differences between the findings of the AHS and the ACS, they did feel that their work had developed a useful understanding of the particular strengths and weaknesses of both surveys. Since the AHS reports statistics at the household level and collects extensive details about respondents’ housing, the researchers concluded that it was an especially valuable resource for those interested in investigating further the relationship between disabilities and housing quality. However, they also note that those using the AHS should be aware that it finds a substantially lower percentage of households with members with disabilities than the ACS does.

Along with the above findings, the full study also includes information about the six questions on disability and possible explanations as to why these questions produce different estimates between surveys. The study, Disability Variables in the American Housing Survey, is available online at http://www.huduser.org/publications/pdf/AHSTask8.pdf. For more information on the AHS, see http://www.census.gov/housing/ahs