People with Disabilities

The availability of affordable homes is an important part of addressing California’s housing needs, but many households bear additional challenges. According the U.S. Census Bureau, over four million Californians have a disability. Health and safety are directly linked to housing, and yet, many people with disabilities face enormous barriers in finding suitable housing to accommodate their needs.

Persons with disabilities are a protected class under state and federal fair housing laws, making intentional housing discrimination against them illegal; however, existing policies, practices, or procedures adversely affect the availability of housing to people with disabilities. In the Final 2020 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (PDF), stakeholders identified a general lack of compliant and accessible units, coupled with inadequate zoning laws, market forces, and community pushback against the construction or preservation of existing accessible units, that create additional barriers to housing choice for people with disabilities. Affirmatively furthering fair housing means creating integrated, community-based housing options for all Californians.

People with disabilities experience disproportionate rates of poverty. And, it’s important to note that there are higher rates of disability amongst communities of color. People with disabilities are the most likely population to experience homelessness, be rent burdened or unable to afford housing, and face the highest rates of housing discrimination. For example, studies show that persons with disabilities are more likely to experience discrimination when seeking housing compared to other protected classes. In California, 54 percent of the discrimination complaints received by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development were related to disability status.

The State of California defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that “limits a major life activity” (Government Code Section 12926-12926.1). This segment of the population needs affordable, conveniently located, and accessible housing, which can be adapted to accommodate the limitations of a specific disability. Within California’s population of persons with disabilities ambulatory disabilities are most prevalent, and are present in roughly 5.8 percent of the population, (nearly 2 million people), followed by those with independent living difficulties, which affect 4.3 percent of the state’s population (almost 1.5 million people).

Many individuals with ambulatory, self-care, or independent living difficulties are able to live independently with appropriate supports in place. These supports include caregivers or In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS). Many seniors, for example, are able to continue living independently as they age and avoid institutionalization by making physical modifications to their homes or obtaining supportive services. Persons with disabilities in rural areas may face additional challenges in finding housing that is affordable, accessible, and near supportive services, such as transit and hospitals, which tend to be less prevalent and accessible in more rural areas of the state. The need for more services and housing options to accommodate the accessibility of persons with a variety of disability types will continue to increase with the aging population in the state.

Lower-income households are more likely to include members with disabilities than higher-income households. Extremely low-income households are more than twice as likely to include an individual with a disability than households earning above moderate income. This is due in part to the challenges individuals with disabilities face in finding work. Specifically,12.8 percent of income eligible households include someone with a hearing or visual impairment. Additionally, 17.9 percent of income eligible households include someone with an ambulatory limitation. Given the challenges that low and moderate-income households of all types face in maintaining adequate housing, it is not unreasonable to assume that almost all low and moderate-income households with members with a disability need of housing assistance, at the very least to find an affordable unit that meets their needs.

In addition to policy work on housing for people with disabilities, HCD administers the following programs:

Learn more about the housing needs of people with disabilities in HCD’s Final 2020 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (PDF).