by Teresa Anderson, MPH
The issue of affordable housing, or lack thereof, is certainly not new to the intellectual and developmental disability community. Suggesting that there is an affordable housing shortage is a gross understatement because as we know the reality is people with IDD face a serious affordable housing crisis in California. In fact, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) statewide housing assessment 2025 reports housing costs and supply issues particularly affect certain vulnerable populations that tend to have the lowest incomes and face significant barriers in obtaining affordable housing. In addition, it was reported that both overt and subtle discrimination, inadequate accommodations for people with disabilities, lack of transportation access and stringent financial requirements prevent many people with disabilities from finding a place to live. Data from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) support this finding as 41% of the discrimination claims filed in CA were by people who felt they were discriminated against due to their disability (this is inclusive of all disability).
The economic disadvantage for people with IDD who want to live on their own or in a supported living arrangement is dramatic. 2013 data from The State of the States in Developmental disabilities shows that 743,230 participants in CA disability programs receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is intended to cover housing and living costs (including food). The maximum 2017 benefit for SSI is $895.72 per month. To put this in perspective if we use the HUD income limits for 2017 non-metropolitan county median income ($41,950.00 for an individual) and compare it to a person living on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) ($895.72 per month or $10,740 per year) we find that they don’t even meet the criteria for Extremely Low Income ($12,600 per year) in a non-metropolitan area.
For example Fresno County city-data, a non-metropolitan area with a lower annual median income, lists the median rent for the county as $784.00 per month ($616.00 lower quartile and $990.00 upper quartile). Even at the lowest quartile of $616.00 per month housing costs far exceed the recommended 30% of income toward housing. Needless to say the divide is even greater in higher median income metropolitan areas. Although there are public housing programs, vouchers and other housing assistance programs available they are limited, often having a waiting list, and people with IDD have to basically compete for available programs and housing units with everyone else seeking housing assistance.
Nearly all Regional Center consumers 18 years of age or older rely on SSI to meet their housing and living needs. A small percent (14%) of consumers earn some wages that may or may not reduce their total reliance on SSI for housing and living costs. It is important to note that housing and support services are separate. Unfortunately for adults with IDD living in CA the limited availability of safe, accessible and affordable housing coupled with the socioeconomic reality of living within an extremely low (and often less than extremely low-income levels) makes finding housing extremely difficult.
To read the public draft in its entirety visit http://www.hcd.ca.gov/policy-research/plans-reports/docs/California%27s-Housing-Future-Full-Public-Draft.pdf