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New Report Highlights Growing Housing Crisis For People With Severe Mental Illness And Other Disabilities; Buying Power Of SSI Benefits In Housing Market Reaches Historic Low

Chris Marshall
For Immediate Release
23 Apr 99

The Technical Assistance Collaborative Inc. (TAC) and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Housing Task Force earlier this month published a compelling report detailing the housing situation facing people with severe mental illness and other disabilities. "Priced Out in 1998: The Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities," explores the extent of this problem particularly for people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Copies of the report are available at the website for "Opening Doors," a publication on housing advocacy NAMI is a member of the CCD Housing Task Force and contributed to the production and publication of this report.

The report uses the federal housing affordability standard for very low income households which suggests that no more than 30% of monthly income should be spent on housing. In 1998, the federal SSI program provided an individual with a disability a monthly income of $494. Based on that figure, the "Priced Out" report documents that in every state and major housing market area people with disabilities receiving SSI benefits were "priced out" of the market -- unable to afford a modest efficiency or one bedroom apartment.

In addition to findings at the national level, Priced Out also includes geographically specific income and housing cost data for people with disabilities receiving SSI in each of the 2,646 housing market areas of the United States. According to the report, individuals receiving SSI are among the lowest income households in the country. Compared to the hourly minimum wage of $5.15, the SSI monthly benefit is equal to $3.09 per hour. Other alarming findings are:

  • The national average income of an individual with a disability receiving SSI is only 24.4 percent of the typical one-person income in a community.

  • The average cost nationally of a one-bedroom apartment is 69 percent of SSI monthly income and more than a person's total monthly SSI income in 125 housing market areas of the country.

Clearly, this report points out, without affordable housing, people with severe mental illness and other disabilities will continue to cope with inappropriate permanent housing situations including living at home with aging parents, in crowded homeless shelters, and in institutions or nursing homes. Moreover, lack of access to affordable housing will continue to force people with severe disabilities to choose between seriously substandard housing, or paying most of their monthly income for rent. The report also recommends that the federal, state and local policymakers refocus their housing policies, programs and resources to ensure that people with disabilities do not continue to be "priced out" of the housing market.

NAMI advocates can find "Priced Out" and more valuable information on affordable housing issues for people with severe mental illnesses through the NAMI policy webpage at or at the Opening Doors website at NAMI advocates can also visit the TAC website at and the CCD Housing Task Force website at