Federal affordable housing program expanded

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Photograph of Capitol building dome with American flag in lower left hand cornerPresident Barack Obama signed into law Jan. 4 two bills that aim to expand housing opportunities for low-income people with disabilities.

Each year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development builds 800 to 1,000 housing units nationwide for low-income individuals with disabilities capable of living independently but in need of supportive living arrangements, as part of its “Section 801” housing program. This figure falls far short of the demand for supportive housing units.

The Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2010, which passed the Senate unanimously, is expected to increase this figure to 3,000 to 4,000, according to a news release from N.Y. Sen. Charles Schumer, one of the bill’s sponsors.

To speed up the application process for housing units, the bill, which requires no extra funding, would transfer authority of application process from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to state agencies. The bill also requires the department to prioritize projects that attract state and private funding, further freeing up federal funds for new projects.

States are required to provide funding for supportive and community-based housing for people with disabilities under the Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead decision, which declared unnecessary institutionalization unconstitutional.

This bill, along with the Supportive Housing of the Elderly Act of 2010, also provides new refinancing options for these individuals to stay in their homes amid the struggling economy.

An estimated 1.3 million people with disabilities are in need of affordable housing, according to an article in the Connecticut Mirror.