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Priced Out Study Measures Growing Affordable Housing Crisis for SSI Beneficiaries With Mental Illnesses

A new national study verifies that low-income people with disabilities (including non-elderly adults living with mental illnesses) are experiencing a national housing affordability crisis, paying an average of 109 percent of their monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) income to rent a modest one-bedroom apartment and 96 percent to rent an efficiency at fair market value.    The study, Priced Out in 2004, was published by the Technical Assistance Collaborative and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Housing Task Force, with funding from the Melville Charitable Trust.

The Priced Out in 2004 study compares the monthly SSI income of more than 4 million Americans with disabilities to the fair market rental rates for efficiencies and modest one-bedroom apartments in every housing market in the country.  For example, Metropolitan Washington, DC is the country’s most expensive housing market area for people with disabilities with one-bedroom units priced at 185 percent of SSI – almost twice the monthly income.  People with disabilities in New York City needed 166 percent of monthly SSI to cover the cost of a one-bedroom apartment.  Other metropolitan areas with rents well over 100 percent of monthly SSI income in 2004 included Boston at 158 percent, San Francisco at 155 percent, Fort Lauderdale at 147 percent and Chicago at 142 percent.

In 2004, the monthly income of a person with a disability on federal SSI benefits was $564 while the national average monthly rent for efficiencies or one-bedroom apartments rose to their highest level ever – an average $676 for a one-bedroom rental.  Federal housing affordability guidelines say that low-income households should pay no more than 30 percent of monthly income towards housing costs.

This report makes a clear and compelling case that only an ongoing monthly housing subsidy is sufficient to close the extreme affordability gap between SSI income and rental housing costs.   The housing problems confronting people with disabilities are pervasive and extend to the lowest cost market areas in the country.  It is impossible for people who receive SSI to pay these rents unless they continue to have a Section 8 voucher or some other type of rent subsidy. 

The full text of the Priced Out in 2004 study is available at: