Academic journal article Cityscape

The House Next Door: A Comparison of Residences by Disability Status Using New Measures in the American Housing Survey

Academic journal article Cityscape

The House Next Door: A Comparison of Residences by Disability Status Using New Measures in the American Housing Survey

Article excerpt


Using new measures in the American Housing Survey, we document housing differences by disability status. We compare housing and neighborhood characteristics for people with and without disabilities using multivariate analyses to control for individual-level characteristics. Our impact estimates suggest that people with disabilities live in housing units and neighborhoods with significantly less desirable characteristics. Low-cost mortgages and housing voucher receipt, however, have positive effects on the housing and neighborhood characteristics of people with disabilities. Other forms of housing assistance, particularly subsidized housing and rent control, are associated with less desirable residences.


Researchers have documented the struggles of working-age people (18 to 64 years old) with disabilities in terms of their employment, health insurance coverage, access to health care, and poverty status. No one has yet researched the state of housing for this group, however, perhaps in part because of data limitations. Now, because of the inclusion of disability-related questions in the 2009 American Housing Survey (AHS), this issue can be analyzed in detail for the first time. Understanding the housing needs of working-age people with disabilities is crucial to developing housing policies for this population, such as the Section 811 program. By analyzing the differences in housing between adults with and without disabilities, we can identify areas in which housing for people with disabilities is lacking and assess the effect of housing policies on the likelihood that people with disabilities will have poor or unstable housing.

Most of the existing literature on housing and disabilities focuses on elderly people or children with disabilities. This article is intended to fill the knowledge gap on the housing status of working-age people with disabilities. We also focus on this population because it represents a large and growing segment that relies heavily on state and federal government programs. In 2008, approximately 19 million working-age people had disabilities (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008). In that same year, the federal government spent nearly $360 billion, or approximately $19,000 per person, on programs and services that working-age people with disabilities used (Livermore, O'Toole, and Stapleton, 2010). Although federal spending on housing- related programs represented only about 1 percent ($3.8 billion) of these expenditures, people with disabilities represent a disproportionate share of those who need housing assistance. For example, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 40 percent of homeless individuals in shelters have a disability (HUD, 2010). We also focus on working-age people with disabilities because they are the target of recent efforts to promote employment, reduce poverty, and reduce reliance on income assistance, primarily from the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. Such efforts, however, are unlikely to be effective if many of these individuals are in poor or unstable housing situations. Recent research has suggested that 1.1 million (HUD PD&R, 2008) to 1.4 million (Nelson, 2008) households with a working-age person with a disability had "worst-case" housing needs in 2005. This worst-case status is defined as low-income household members paying more than one-half of their incomes in rent, living in severely substandard housing, or both.

Before the release of the 2009 AHS, researchers made use of supplements to the AHS, the American Community Survey (ACS), and other large national data sets to find basic housing information on people with disabilities. Studies have identified differences in housing quality for households with and without members with disabilities, including the number of people per room, unit size, the number of families in the home, whether the unit is a mobile home, and neighborhood amenities (National Council on Disability, 2010; White, Peaslee, and LaQuatra, 1994). …

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