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Less than 5% of housing is accessible to older, disabled Americans

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Despite a sizeable elderly and disabled population in the U.S., there is not enough affordable housing to accommodate those individuals.

“For millions of Americans, adequate housing is more of an aspiration than a reality,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who serves as chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, at a Thursday hearing.

“In particular, too many older adults and people with disabilities cannot afford accessible housing,” Casey said.

About 26% of the U.S. population — or about 61 million people — have a disability, Casey said. At the same time, 1 in 5 Americans will be older than 65 by 2030.

Accessible homes — which offer specific features or technologies — can help older and disabled individuals continue to live in their own homes or in communities they choose. That may include wider doorways, lower counters and sinks and accessible bathrooms.

Yet less than 5% of the national housing supply is accessible, Casey said. Moreover, less than 1% of housing is available to wheelchairs.

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Leaders on both sides of the political aisle agree the shortage of adequate housing is a problem.

The U.S. is between 3 million and 6 million houses short of what the market needs, noted Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., ranking member of the Senate aging committee.

The problem has been complicated by state and federal regulatory burdens, higher infrastructure costs, supply chain constraints, work force shortages and increased materials costs due to inflation, Braun noted.

“Sometimes we’re at odds in terms of what we should do, but there’s always practical legislation in the middle, and I’d hope that we can have those conversations that get us there,” Braun said.

Suggestions for improvements emerged during Thursday’s hearing.

Develop affordable, accessible housing

For Dominique Howell, a disability housing advocate based in Philadelphia, finding an adequate place to call home that can accommodate her disability has been a struggle, she testified at Thursday’s hearing.

Five years ago, Howell said, she was “wrongfully evicted” from her home, along with her daughter, who was 3 years old at the time, and her grandmother.

Howell was initially prohibited from entering a shelter, due to the home- and community-based services she receives. After finding legal representation, she was able to enter the shelter, though she slept in her power wheelchair for a year.

Today, Howell and her daughter have found a home. However, it still has accessibility challenges, she said. When the elevator breaks, she and other residents are sometimes forced to spend weeks in their homes.

How to build a financial plan for people with disabilities

“Housing is a human right and unfortunately for too many Americans, especially people with disabilities, are not being equally granted the right of housing they can…

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Less than 5% of housing is accessible to older, disabled Americans

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