Housing Initiative

Introduction

There is a critical lack of affordable housing in California for people with developmental disabilities, one of the most vulnerable and economically challenged populations in the state. Although a decent home and suitable living environment is what everyone wants, a family’s ability to obtain and maintain a decent place to live is becoming increasingly difficult. Rising mortgage foreclosures threaten the housing stability of millions of families and the integrity of neighborhoods all over this country. The cost of rental housing can force low income families to choose between paying the rent and purchasing other basic necessities, like food, heat and health care. What makes housing “affordable” is the cost of a rent or mortgage payment relative to the individual’s or family’s income. According to the federal government, rental housing is “affordable” if a household pays no more than 30 percent of their income for rent. According to mortgage lenders, a home is “affordable” if the mortgage payment is not more than 35 percent of the borrower’s income. Most people with developmental disabilities receive monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments of $870 per month ($10,440 per year) as their sole source of income. So-called “affordable” rent for someone receiving SSI payments as their sole source of income should be about $261 per month (i.e., 30 percent of SSI).

Fair Market Rent (FMR) is a rental payment standard used by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to determine rents for HUD programs. In California, the average FMR for a one bedroom apartment is $1,022 per month and a recipient of SSI would pay at least 117 percent of their total monthly SSI income to rent a one bedroom apartment. Even in metropolitan areas with the lowest FMRs in the state, such as Visalia/Porterville, the rent is still out of reach for people with a developmental disability. In fact, in 21 counties in California, someone on SSI would need more than 100 percent of their total SSI payment to afford a one bedroom apartment. The grim realities are why housing opportunities must be created; housing that is safe, decent, and affordable for people with developmental disabilities that allow for people to be integrated in the mainstream of life in their home communities.