Washington, Nov. 3 – While people began thinking differently about design and accessibility following the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, many people with disabilities are unable to find accessible and affordable housing still today.
Therefore, as part of the #PwDsVote Disability Questionnaire, the nonpartisan, nonprofit disability organization RespectAbility asked candidates running for president, senate or governor about their plans to address this issue. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to respond and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.
The cost of housing for all people has been rising higher and higher. According to a report by Disability Statistics, 28.1 percent of people with disabilities, ages 21-64, were living below the poverty line in 2014. As a result, 41 percent of individuals with disabilities could not afford housing. People with disabilities face more challenges in finding employment opportunities. With no or low-paying jobs, many individuals with disabilities are unable to afford an accessible housing complex.
35.1 million housing complexes have one or more people living with a disability in them, each with unique needs. A wheelchair user, for example, needs to not only be able to enter a building with a ramp and have an elevator available to use if not on the ground floor but also needs wide enough hallways and accessible bathrooms. Furthermore, the housing itself needs to be in a location where it can be easily accessible to employment opportunities, as transportation is not always accessible either.
The quotes in this article are the candidates’ answers to question 14 of the gubernatorial/senate questionnaire: “Do you have a plan for accessible, affordable, integrated housing to allow people with disabilities to live in the communities where they work or are seeking work?” This was adapted from a similar question, number 13, in the presidential questionnaire.
Both Democrats and Republicans recognize that people with disabilities should be able to afford accessible housing in their communities near local employment opportunities.
“It is essential to enable people with disabilities to live in the communities where they work,” responded Democrat Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is running for the senate seat representing New Hampshire. “In the Senate I am committed to ensuring accessible, affordable, integrated housing for those who need it.”
Her opponent, Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte, called for tax credits.
“I support expanding the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program to help create or preserve approximately 1.3 million affordable homes over a 10-year period—an increase of 400,000 more units than is possible under the current program,” she responded. “I also support the HOME Investment Partnerships program, which provides federal block grants to states and localities to meet their diverse affordable housing needs.”
Check out all of the candidates’ full responses below:
NOTE: Donald Trump declined to respond to the survey.
Former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton (D)
“Stable living conditions ensure stable lives, but persons with disabilities often struggle to secure housing. As a result, they become unnecessarily vulnerable to unemployment, homelessness, and incarceration. The landmark 1999 ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. codified the right under the ADA for persons with disabilities to live in the community rather than institutions, and to gain access to reasonable accommodations to support their independence. And since passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, a bill that I am incredibly proud to have originally co-sponsored, people with autism have received the ADA’s protections against discrimination in employment, government services, and public accommodation.
As President, I will direct the DOJ to build on President Obama’s record of strong enforcement of Olmstead and work in concert with HUD, HHS, and the Department of Labor to break down the barriers to housing and employment that people with autism face. Alongside my Autism Works Initiative, described above, I will increase housing opportunities for youth and adults with autism by funding projects that help individuals with autism live independently in their communities and investing in community-based housing programs that have proven to be effective, such as the newly-reformed Section 811 program authorized by the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2010. I believe that we must explore similar steps to help those with mental health conditions and other disabilities obtain housing.
I will also move decisively to end the homelessness of veterans with disabilities by building on successful initiatives and expanding programs that help ensure long-term success, including leveraging federal resources to support community-based organizations that focus on reducing veteran homelessness; expanding complementary programs and outreach to prepare veterans with disabilities for independent living; and addressing the needs of homeless women veterans and homeless veteran families by clarifying language in the Fair Housing Act that removes ambiguities in the law regarding gender- and family-specific housing. And I will work with Congress to ensure adequate funding for homeless-prevention resources, emergency housing, and safe shelter for all homeless youth.”
State Sen. Colin Bonini (DE-R)
“Delaware has a housing shortage on for all people on the low-income side and there are not enough rentals. This is a serious problem up and down the state for people with and without disabilities. The long-term answer is greater economic viability. My proposed policies to strengthen our economy will significantly help the housing shortage.”
Rep. John Carney (DE-D)
“Finding quality, affordable housing is a significant challenge in many Delaware communities. Statewide, a family has to earn an income of more than $21/hr. to afford a modest two bedroom apartment and utilities at fair market rate. This challenge is compounded for many Delawareans with physical and mental disabilities, as well as those struggling with substance abuse, because they often need professional support in addition to affordable housing. If I’m elected Governor, I will direct state agencies, like the Delaware State Housing Authority and the Office of Land Use and Planning, to work with local governments, private organizations, and members of the religious and non-profit communities active in this area, to develop a plan of action for addressing the challenges of affordable housing, including for those with disabilities.”
Atty. Gen. Chris Koster (MO-D)
“I served on the Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC), where I supported the adoption of a rule requiring new rental construction built through MHDC funding be designed to accommodate people with disabilities.”
Ms. Linda Coleman (NC-D) – running for Lt. Gov.
“The current housing situation for PwDs is unacceptable. Nationally, the average SSI payment puts a PwD 23 percent below the federal poverty level. PwDs are already a vulnerable minority, but forcing a PwD into an unstable, potentially dangerous housing situation due to poverty-level income puts his or her basic human and civil rights at risk. I support housing vouchers to expand access to affordable, integrated housing for PwDs, and I am also interested in exploring additional programs as options to improve this situation. Additionally, we should explore alternative models and initiatives from other states and localities to implement best practices.”
Mr. Mike Weinholtz (UT-D)
“Communities along Utah’s urban corridor are struggling to keep up with the needs of affordable housing. Though I do feel that specific decisions should be made at the local level, this doesn’t mean that I think the state has no role to play in the issue.
I would like to see the Utah Division of Housing and Community Development play a larger role in ensuring that local communities have the resources necessary to provide affordable housing for all populations, including those with disabilities. I would work towards providing funding for service providers to increase facilities throughout the state. Ideally, these locations should be located near transportation hubs and provide easy access to jobs, hospitals, and community centers. Though this may seem like a tall order, Utah’s dense urban network provides ample opportunities.
Through the use of block grants and best practices surrounding affordable housing, I feel that the urban core (where 80% of the state’s population resides) can make great strides towards affordable, quality housing for all, including those who are disabled.”
Sec. Sue Minter (VT-D)
“I plan to work with housing developers and local officials to make sure that Vermont addresses its affordable housing crisis. In addition, I support programs to address homelessness that help people stay in their homes in times of financial or other personal crises.”
Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (VT-R)
“As Governor, I will make investing in affordable housing programs a top priority, in order to advance economic development across Vermont. The state budgets that I propose and sign into law will reflect this key initiative to expand economic prosperity. I will also work to ensure that affordable housing programs are accommodating and accessible to those with disabilities.”
Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris (CA-D)
“Kamala Harris believes that affordable housing is one of the biggest issues facing Americans today. In 2015, Kamala filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the City of San Jose and against real estate developers’ that sought to nullify San Jose’s affordable housing ordinance. Kamala has also taken steps to aid Californians facing hardships due to foreclosures and mortgage fraud. Kamala took on the big banks winning more than $20 billion for California homeowners. She also sponsored the California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights, the nation’s strongest anti-foreclosure measures for homeowners. In the Senate, Kamala will continue to fight for affordable housing for all Americans, including persons with disabilities.”
Rep. Loretta Sanchez (CA-D)
“First, I do not support policies which seek to take people with disabilities away from their homes and communities, and thus do not support clustered home models through non provider owned housing. Unfortunately, due to the rising costs of rent, access to affordable housing is becoming sparse. This should not be the case. I support policies which promote fair housing for people with disabilities, and protects their rights from discriminatory actions. I also support programs such as Section 204 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prioritizes a percentage of new developments for individuals with disabilities and requires reasonable accessibility accommodations.”
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (IL-D)
“All people have a right to safe, affordable, integrated, quality housing. A safe place to live is an essential part of building integrated and fair communities, and justice for people with disabilities begins at the local level. I will support expanding and protecting this right for those with disabilities and emphasize the importance of accessible and ADA compliant housing.”
Mr. Patrick Wiesner (KS-D)
“I need more information before I can formulate a comprehensive plan. My plan will be based on evidence provided by experts in the field.”
Mr. Foster Campbell (LA-D)
“I will work with HUD and all agencies to ensure that housing plans for people with disabilities are part of every single federally funded housing development. Housing that is nearby accepting and accessible work places and provides plenty of choice with regard to where people with disabilities reside is not only the right thing to do, but it makes the most sense for our economy as people with disabilities work to be a productive sector in our workforce and our society.”
Ms. Caroline Fayard (LA-D)
“People with disabilities are significantly more vulnerable to unemployment, homelessness, and incarceration than the average citizen. It is important people with disabilities receive the resources they need to provide a stable life for themselves, and housing is an essential piece of that equation. Olmstead v. L.C. (1999) codified the right under the ADA for persons with disabilities to live in the community rather than institutions, and to gain access to reasonable accommodations to support their independence. I fully support strong enforcement of Olmstead and will work to create initiatives and programs that address homelessness among people with disabilities.”
Mr. Abhay Patel (LA-R)
“Affordable and accessible housing is a key barrier to advancement in our country. We must lean on local and market-oriented solutions to ensure that housing stock for all ability and socio-economic levels are available and adequate.”
Del. Kathy Szeliga (MD-R)
“Access to affordable housing in Maryland can be a challenge for everyone because of skyrocketing housing prices near Washington, D.C., and in the Baltimore area. As the next U.S. Senator from Maryland, I would work with the state to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities to live in the communities where they work that other Marylanders have.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD-D)
“We must build on progress made over the last twenty years in the Olmstead case and improvements to the Americans with Disabilities Act that have made it clear that persons with disabilities have a right to reasonable accommodations for community-based, independent living over institutions. This includes investments in programs like Section 811 to provide supportive housing for persons with disabilities and in rehabilitation of homes for the elderly to allow them to live independently later into life.
I have also worked diligently with local leaders in my Congressional district to address veterans homelessness with the acquisition of HUD-VASH vouchers and supportive services. I am very proud that Montgomery County was recognized as reaching “functional zero” for veteran homelessness late last year, with enough housing and services to ensure that no veteran in the county would be homeless.”
Sec. of State Jason Kander (MO-D)
“Given the lack of affordable housing options and the disproportionate impact this has on those with a disability, it is imperative that Congress continue to support affordable housing options that encourage independent living while combatting homelessness.”
Rep. Joe Heck (NV-R)
“Access to affordable housing options are an important part of leading a successful, independent life for individuals with disabilities. We should encourage the development of integrated communities so that people with disabilities can live close to job opportunities, thus reducing the need for long, potentially dangerous commutes.”
Atty. Gen. Catherine Cortez Masto (NV-D)
“People with disabilities deserve access to affordable, safe, and clean housing that provides easy access from work to home. I am committed to eliminating discrimination in housing and I will work in the Senate to end discrimination and ensure people with disabilities can live in the communities where they work.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (NH-R)
“I support expanding the low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program to help create or preserve approximately 1.3 million affordable homes over a 10-year period—an increase of 400,000 more units than is possible under the current program. In addition to increasing the LIHTC, I am a cosponsor of a bill to give states more flexibility by creating a new income-averaging option to help developments maintain financial feasibility while providing a deeper level of affordability. This will allow people with disabilities who collect Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and generally make less than LIHTC target range of 40 to 60 percent of the average monthly income of an area to be eligible for LIHTC units.
I also support the HOME Investment Partnerships program, which provides federal block grants to states and localities to meet their diverse affordable housing needs. In addition, I introduced the Senior Home Modification Assistance Initiative Act with Sen. King to establish a process to better coordinate the many existing federal home modification programs and provide more consumer-friendly information on how those programs can benefit older Americans. By helping aging residents take advantage of federal programs to modify their homes, the legislation achieves the dual goals of helping people age in place and expanding the supply of accessible housing.”
Gov. Maggie Hassan (NH-D)
“It is essential to enable people with disabilities to live in the communities where they work, and in the Senate I am committed to ensuring accessible, affordable, integrated housing for those who need it.”
Sen. Richard Burr (NC-R)
“No state has been hit harder by the lack of affordable housing than North Carolina, and there has been no exception for people with disabilities. Further challenging this is the large number of veterans who return to North Carolina with service-related disabilities who are just looking for a place to call home. As the Ranking
Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I addressed these challenges in many ways. For one, I was the author of the Services for Ending Long-Term Homelessness Act, which expands the definition of “Chronically Homeless” to include veterans who meet certain disability thresholds in order to be eligible for homeless services.
Additionally, I authored the Veterans’ Benefits Enhancement Act, which provides federal assistance to veterans who have a service-related disability to make structural modifications and rehabilitations to their homes in order to accommodate their disability and make their homes more accessible.
In addition, one of the benefits of the ABLE Act is that it allows ABLE accounts to be used to cover the costs of housing, including rent, mortgage payments, improvements and modifications.
Finally, I have long supported Section 822, the Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program. This program is critical to helping those with disability afford a home. I will continue to support robust funding for this program.”
State Rep. Deborah Ross (NC-D)
“I am an advocate for affordable and accessible housing for all people, and this is especially important for people with disabilities in order to lower barriers for seeking and maintaining employment. In the State House, I was a prime sponsor of HB 176, which would have helped build low-income housing through a program that offers tax credits and other incentives. I was a prime sponsor of legislation that would have called for a bond referendum to decide whether the state should issue up to $250 million in bonds for NC Housing Trust Fund. I will continue to be a champion of accessible, affordable, and integrated housing in the U.S. Senate.”
Mr. Joe DeMare (OH-G)
“There is no reason for homelessness in America. We have enough wealth to ensure that everyone has a home. We intend to increase funding for public housing programs such as HUD to increase housing access.”
Mr. Mark Callahan (OR-R)
“I mentioned above how there should be communities that are like retirement communities but are set up for the disabled and handicap based upon their needs. I believe these need to be established all throughout each state where there are individual apartments/homes for the self sufficient and apartments for those who need more assistance with support within the community for their needs. Currently most neighborhoods consist of a combination of the disabled and non disabled. I believe passing legislation that ensures these communities are built and/or created will solve the housing crisis and as well ensure that the disabled and handicap have affordable and reliable homes. By creating these communities limited to the disabled, handicap, and families with disabled family members I believe it will solve many issues people with disabilities face and will help with crime as well. These communities would provide a safe environment and the affordable housing needed to ensure all individuals with disabilities have their equal opportunity at quality of life.”
Mrs. Katie McGinty (PA-D)
“We should ensure that new housing development includes affordable housing units, and that all units are accessible to those with disabilities.”
Mr. Jay Williams (SD-D)
“I have no specific plans in place to deal with specific issues of the disabled. I understand the need to help those with disabilities and I pledge to work to address these issues if elected.”
Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (WI-D)
“I believe that safe and affordable housing gives people the foundation on which they can build their lives. In 2007, I sponsored the Affordable Housing Expansion and Public Safety Act, which would have increased the number of section 8 housing vouchers by 100,000 and created a first step towards the creation of a national affordable housing trust fund. The National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) was then established in 2008 as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, which I voted for. The NHTF has been used to distribute funds for affordable housing nationwide, and accessibility modifications are eligible for funding through the trust. I also supported legislation in 2009 to create $20 million in new housing vouchers for disabled Americans.”
RespectAbility has asked all the candidates for Governor and Senator on both sides of the aisle to complete the same questionnaire. We will share responses from additional campaigns as we receive them.
The RespectAbility Report is a nonpartisan political commentary on the 2016 U.S. elections with a focus on disability issues. The RespectAbility Report has covered all of the Democratic and Republican candidates for president, senate and governor. Coverage can be found at https://therespectabilityreport.org/. The RespectAbility Report is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates.