We are excited to share a new report, ‘Access Denied: An Overview of the Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities’ published by Allen Hines, the Housing Access Director of Welcome Home member, Community Vision. Allen has worked in disability services and advocacy for more than a decade and is a lifelong wheelchair user. The report offers thoughtful, research-driven insight into the structural barriers people with disabilities face when accessing stable housing. We hope you take a moment to read the recommendations outlined in the report.

Read the Report

As highlighted in the report, when considering policy solutions to affordable housing access, it is paramount that we consider the unique barriers to housing placed on people with disabilities. In addition to basic physical accommodation that may prevent someone with a disability from accessing adequate housing options, Hine’s report highlights how governments have excluded people with disabilities from accurate data collection and informing housing policies. These exclusionary practices ultimately prevent policies from successfully addressing the specific barriers faced by people with disabilities. Until the 1960s, it was assumed that people living with a disability should live in institutions and thus be excluded from the opportunity to choose a home or community that would best suit them. This history of exclusion from housing choice is essential to understanding why disability accommodations received little consideration in the design and building of housing units. With institutionalization peaking in the mid-1960s, there was an assumption among many that people with disabilities would never have consumer choice in the housing market.

Additionally, housing policy solutions that aim to increase housing access strictly through wage increases and workforce development fail to address housing for people with disabilities who may not be able to enter the workforce full-time, if at all. In 2023, the average Disability Benefit was $1,350/month. A one-bedroom apartment affordable to someone living on Disability would need to be available for $405/month – a rental amount inaccessible in our area without public investment to offset costs. The structure for providing Disability Benefits also disincentivizes many from increasing their earned income for fear of losing the stability of basic, deserved benefits. Even if an individual can work, they may only earn an additional $1,110 a month before their benefits are negatively affected. Even with this additional income, a household of one would still be considered very low income.

While recent investments in subsidized units and rent assistance in our region have increased affordable housing options for up to 19,000 people, due to barriers to regulatory enforcement, and a lack of data surrounding accessible housing stock, enforcing basic accessibility standards for new affordable housing construction is a challenge for government agencies. Currently, Oregon does not have data that accurately reflects the number of people with disabilities who qualify for programs such as rent assistance. And, while the State of Oregon has made recent investments to track statewide housing needs through the Oregon Housing Needs Assessment, there is not an accurate measure of the number of existing accessible dwelling units. This lack of data results in under-investments in essential policy tools that could increase housing access for people with disabilities.

The structural barriers to housing stability and choices are addressable. As outlined in Hine’s report, these barriers can be fixed by more thoughtfully considering the unique needs of people with disabilities when implementing housing policy. In his report, Hine outlines three actionable steps to address some of these barriers: (1) Raise the floor for essential benefits for people with disabilities, (2) Expand rent assistance to better meet the needs of people with disabilities, and (3) Preserve and expand affordable housing with designs that reflect the needs identified by people with disabilities. Ultimately, the successful implementation of these strategies is contingent on the involvement of people with disabilities.