New Data Show Nearly 1 in 5 Homes Have Some Type of Accessibility Problem

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Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released the results of the American Housing Survey (AHS). This year’s survey had a core set of questions, as well as supplemental questions regarding home modifications and the needs of occupants living with disabilities. The AHS findings confirm that the existing need for home modifications is enormous.

The AHS data show that 17.9% of homes are occupied by someone who has difficulty using kitchen cabinets, household appliances, and/or accessing and using the bathroom. In addition, 34.8% of homes with someone having accessibility issues are renter-occupied. When a home is owner-occupied, the financial challenges of making home modifications are often the primary obstacle. But when renters have accessibility challenges, meeting those needs brings up even more issues. Questions about renter and landlord rights and responsibilities arise, information about available resources is needed, as is knowledge about municipal ordinances, and identifying experienced and trust-worthy workers can make a difference.

With the aging baby-boomer generation and more than a million veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom have physical disabilities, ensuring the housing needs of these community members are met is critical to enabling them to be as fully engaged as possible. Meeting this need requires cities to engage community stakeholders, particularly since cities need to do more with less in the current fiscal environment.

As reported in NLC’s City Fiscal Conditions, 21% of cities reported decreases in human service spending, and 48% reduced the size of their municipal workforce. By leading the engagement and coordination of stakeholders, city’s can ensure that limited resources are used as effectively and efficiently as possible.

With an increasing number of Americans deciding to rent, thousands of baby-boomers turning 65 each day, and veterans with disabilities returning home, the AHS findings underscore the great and growing need for cities to focus on meeting the home modification needs of residents. To offer insight about what cities can do as these factors come together, NLC held a webinar about these issues as they pertain to veterans. But the lessons discussed can be applied to other parts of a city’s population as well.