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Worst Case Housing Needs of People with Disabilities

  • Published: 2011-03-25 (Revised/Updated 2015-10-05) : Author: HUD : Contact: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Synopsis: Worst case housing needs among very low income renter households with disabilities.

Main Document

"Based on data from HUD's American Housing Survey (AHS) conducted between May and September of 2009, the full report found a stark increase in the overall number of worst case housing needs between 2007 and 2009."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today issued a report summarizing efforts to the measure the extent of "worst case housing needs" among very low-income renter households with disabilities.

HUD's 2009 Worst Case Housing Needs of People with Disabilities finds that approximately 1 million households that included non-elderly people with disabilities had worst case needs.

"Worst case housing needs" are defined as very low-income renters (incomes below half the median in their area) who do not receive government housing assistance and who either paid more than half their monthly incomes for rent, lived in severely substandard conditions, or both.

"This is the first time we've been able to use a direct measure to estimate the number of these households rather than relying on proxies," said Dr. Raphael's Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research. "Better data will help inform us on how best to house and serve this vulnerable population. Persons with disabilities are confronted with a number of obstacles to finding decent rental housing, including discrimination and the general lack of accessible housing they can afford."

Last month, HUD issued its latest in a long-running series of reports on the extent of worst case housing needs. Based on data from HUD's American Housing Survey (AHS) conducted between May and September of 2009, the full report found a stark increase in the overall number of worst case housing needs between 2007 and 2009. This study is a supplement to that report and presents national estimates and information on the critical housing problems that confront low-income renting families that include people with disabilities.

In 2009, the AHS included for the first time, direct questions on disability, presenting a unique opportunity to improve the estimates of the number of households that include people with disabilities who experience worst case needs. Until 2008, HUD identified households that include people with disabilities by using a proxy measure of several reported income sources that are typically associated with disabilities. Although the proxy measure improved significantly over the years as a result of better AHS data and methods, it has acknowledged limitations, such as under-counting people with disabilities, in some cases, and flagging people who do not report disabilities, in other cases.

Trends in Worst Case Needs and Disabilities between 2005 and 2009

Using HUD's former proxy measure is the only method to examine any change from prior year reports in the number of these very-low income households with disabilities. In 2009, the number and prevalence of worst case needs increased among very low-income renters with disabilities. Because a direct measure was not available before the 2009 AHS, changes overtime have to rely on income proxy measure. According to income proxy measure, the number of worst case needs households with disabilities increased by 140,000 between 2007 and 2009, affecting 1.1 million households.

Major findings of the study include:

HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at and

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