State of the States: A Breakdown of Housing Options from across America

October 31st, 2013

Here at M&L Special Needs Planning, LLC, we take housing for individuals with disabilities seriously. In fact, we take it so seriously that we came up with a concept that we feel will revolutionize the way in which individuals with disabilities and their families find housing options: our Independent Living Program and Housing Project. As we became more and more immersed in housing, and started to work more frequently with families who were looking for housing options, we found that we were often asked this question: “which state is the best in terms of offering housing options?” That question is usually followed by, “should I move my family member with disabilities to another state to access a better range of options?”

Although there is little more than a week left before the launch of our Independent Living Program and Housing Project, we wanted to give you a sneak peek of the way in which our online housing database answers this question. In our database, we have independent living and housing programs organized and categorized by state: subscribers can simply choose the state in which they live, or the state in which they would like to live, and quickly gain access to the different housing options, funding programs, and housing information relevant to that state. In addition to saving valuable time and decreasing the amount of research necessary to find information, it allows individuals to quickly access and compare state resources.

The launch of this project is not until November 11th. For today’s purposes, however, we have decided to provide a brief discussion of this topic – in addition to drawing on our own experience in researching housing options from across the country, we will also use data from National Council on Disabilities’ report, The State of Housing in America in the 21st Century: A Disability Perspective, and the Cerebral Palsy Association’s report, The Case for Inclusion: 2013 to provide you with a brief analysis of the best (and worst) states, in terms of housing.

The National Council on Disability’s Report: Which states are the best at housing?

This question can be very tricky to answer; to begin, housing for individuals with disabilities is a constantly evolving medium. Programs that are here today may have their funding cut, and cease to exist, tomorrow. Often, programs that have been in the works for months, or even years, are abruptly cancelled due to policy changes, funding cuts, or shifting government priorities. Similarly, completely new housing programs may arise out of nowhere (or, they appear to, at least).

As the NCD points out in their report, the federal resources needed to create these housing opportunities are not sufficient to meet the needs in most, if not all, communities – and entitlement funding is not based on relative need of housing, rather a formula designed to reflect need per capita. Having said that, their report points to California as the state that has the largest population of non-institutionalized individuals with disabilities, followed by Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania. In terms of funding for subsidized housing units, funds that are not subject to a formula but come from direct grants, New York has the largest share of public housing, followed by Pennsylvania.

According to the NCD, the states that rank consistently in the top 10 across all categories of housing are Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. In terms of states that rank the in the bottom ten consistently, across all categories of housing, the NCD identifies Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

The Case for Inclusion’s State Ranking for 2013 – Housing and Other Factors

The Case for Inclusion Report: 2013 doesn’t examine housing independently as a factor when ranking state performance; rather, it examines states across a variety of factors and ranks them based on their performance in each.

For example, in one category that can be considered housing related – keeping the family together – the Case of Inclusion gathers information from each state and compares them based on this information. The report then uses these comparisons to rank the states in order of best and worst. Let’s examine Florida, as an example – Florida has an overall ranking of 31 (with 1 being best, and 51 being worst). This state houses 916 individuals in large state facilities, a cost of $182,865/person/year.
The report also examined the number of families served, the wait lists for housing and community programs, and the portion of people and dollars in HBCS (Home and Community Based Supports). In addition to housing and independent living, the report also examines employment, education, practices and policies.

The Case for Inclusion’s Top Ten States in terms of services for individuals with disabilities (in which housing is included) are Arizona (#1), New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, California, Washington, Michigan, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

The Case for Inclusion’s Bottom Ten States are identified as New Jersey (#42), Iowa, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Illinois, Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi (#51).

Which States Would M&L Recommend as Having the Best Housing Programs?

Each and every state offers very different options and opportunities for housing; some states are light years ahead of others in terms of the creation and development of housing programs and options.

In our workshop, titled “Overview of Residential Options & How to Plan Financially” we discuss the different housing options in each state. (This workshop is available by request – if you are interested in having us give this presentation in a venue of your choice, please contact us. We are willing to travel). We urge families to keep an open mind to the idea of relocation if there is housing model that suits their loved one better than the housing models available in the state in which they currently reside. Another option for families who really like housing options in other states -but cannot find a similar one in their home state – is to begin a grass roots organization and create their own housing model.

This grass roots-approach to housing is becoming more and more popular across America – families and professionals are working towards creating different housing models in states that have strict regulations, and they are finding ways to make legislation work for various models that can accommodate more individuals with disabilities. For example, here at M&L we hosted a housing seminar with the folks from the Center for Independent Futures in an attempt to bring interest and attention towards replicating their Community Living Option residences in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland – it was a huge success! Stay tuned to this blog if you are interested in hearing all about it – we will be writing about in in the next few weeks.

Having said that, we do have a top three in terms of states with (what we consider) the best housing models/options. They would be Massachusetts, California and Arizona.

Thanks so much for taking the time to drop by our blog today – we hope we have provided you with some valuable information about the different states and housing options. As we mentioned, the Independent Living Program and Housing Project will launch November 11th, and if you choose to subscribe you will be able to access much more detailed and specific information on housing options from across the different states, as well as specific programs, models, regulations, funding, etc. for each state. If you are interested in subscribing to the database and becoming a part of the member directory, please send us an email, or give us a call.

Have a great day, everyone. And – Happy Halloween! Have a safe and fun evening!




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