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Housing Update -- New Report Demonstrates Growing Affordable Housing Crisis for Non-Elderly Adults With Mental Illness Living on SSI

June 4, 2007

A newly published report once again quantifies the growing housing affordability crisis facing people with serious mental illness who depend on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for basic support needs.  This report compares monthly SSI cash benefits to local U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Fair Market Rents for modestly priced one bedroom and studio/efficiency rental units.  Since 1998, it has been published every two years by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Housing Task Force and the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC).  NAMI is a member of the CCD coalition. 

To view the Priced Out in 2006 report, or order a copy, click here.

Priced Out in 2006 reveals that for the first time:

  • From 2004-2006, people with disabilities who relied on SSI as their source of income descended further into poverty.  In 2006, the annual income of a single individual receiving SSI payments was $7,584 – equal to only 18.2 percent of the national median income for a one-person household and almost 25 percent below the federal poverty level;
  • The national average rent for a modest one-bedroom unit climbed to $715 per month  -- equal to 113.1 percent of monthly SSI payments (which on a national average were $632 per month);
  • Studio/efficiency rents climbed to $633 per month --100.1 percent of monthly SSI income.

These shocking statistics mean that approximately 4 million SSI beneficiaries with disabilities – 1/3 of whom have a serious mental illness – are shut out of the rental market in every city, town and rural area of the country. For example in the Columbia, Maryland housing market, the federal Fair Market Rent for a modestly priced one-bedroom apartment was 193.2 percent of monthly SSI income – the highest level in the nation.  In New Orleans, modest studio/efficiency apartments soared to $755 a month – a 45 percent increase since Hurricane Katrina. In the rural areas of Nevada, the cost of a one-bedroom unit priced at the HUD Fair Market Rent was $603 – consuming the entire monthly income of a single individual receiving SSI in that state – leaving a SSI beneficiary totally unable to pay for food, clothing, or out of pocket medical expenses.

Even more shocking is that Priced Out in 2006found a precipitous and relentless decline in housing affordability for SSI recipients since 1998 when the first edition of Priced Out was released.  During the past eight years, as funding for low income housing programs has been slashed, the cost of a modest one-bedroom rent rose from 69 percent to 113.1 percent of SSI.  During that time, SSI income dropped 26 percent compared to the one-person median income. 

Due to the severity of this housing affordability crisis, CCD and TAC strongly urge the federal government to commit to a multi-year plan to create a minimum of 150,000 new federal rent subsidies for people with disabilities with the lowest incomes. Specifically, we recommend that the federal government commit to provide 10,000 new Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers and 5,000 new Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities rent subsidies each year for the next ten years.

Although this recommendation may seem unrealistic in this period of deficit reduction and pay-go rules, it would end up benefiting everyone.  As Eunice Kennedy Shriver underscored in a foreword to the report, “creating and maintaining the financial and social supports to provide affordable housing for individuals with disabilities in the community is not only the right thing to do, it makes fiscal sense.... it costs 50-75% less to provide services in community-based housing rather than more institutional-type housing funded by Medicaid.”

We hope that this report will shine a light on the housing affordability crisis facing the extremely low income citizens of your state and that you will help us to address this crisis.  Our nation’s most vulnerable citizens deserve no less.