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Renters with Disabilities: Do They get a Fair Shot?

Thursday, January 17, 2018

Integrated Living Opportunities (ILO) is dedicated to helping self advocates and their families build supported, inclusive communities that are fully integrated into the wider community. Helping self advocates find independent living options that help them live full lives is our priority.

As we work with self advocates and families to build our supported communities, we often hear about challenges that individuals with disabilities face on their journey to independent living. These challenges include inaccessible living options (i.e. physical barriers) social barriers (lack of access to transportation, amenities, recreation facilities), and emotional barriers (isolation from community and community members).

Other, more concrete barriers exist as well – individuals with disabilities that are searching for independent living often have to struggle with lack of affordable housing and lack of financial support/options. Recently, a study about yet another barrier was published – negative and discriminatory attitudes towards renters with disabilities.

The Study

The study, titled Rental Housing Discrimination on the Basis of Mental Disabilities: Results of Pilot Testing used a technique called “matched pair testing” to discover whether or not there was a discriminatory attitude towards renters with disabilities, and if so how prevalent. Researchers conducted “matched-pair tests”, in which two individuals – one with a disability, one without a disability – were paired on the basis of factors such as income, gender, age, race. This matched pair was instructed to contact the rental agencies using three forms of communication – email, in person, and telephone. After examining the results of these tests, researchers  concluded the following: “people with mental illness (MI) or intellectual/developmental disability (I/DD) sometimes experience discrimination when trying to get information about rental housing, when applying for rental housing, and after moving in…”.

Key Findings

Below is a quick summary of the key findings, as published on the website How Housing Matters:

  • People with MI or I/DD were less likely to receive responses to inquiries about rental housing, and were less likely to be invited to inspect available units.
  • People with MI or I/DD were more likely to be encouraged to look at a different unit that the one advertised (via telephone).
  • A significant proportion of people with MI I/DD were given negative responses to reasonable requests for accommodation in their rental homes.

In response to the results of this study, researchers prepared a number of policy changes – including the recommendation that a proactive education initiative aimed towards reducing discrimination be implemented for the general public. This initiative would focus on raising awareness about the rights of individuals with disabilities in regards to public and private housing. Researchers also recommended that individuals with disabilities be educated as to their rights in the housing market, so that these individuals can recognize discrimination and advocate for themselves when necessary. Finally, researchers stressed the importance of further research to fully explore the attitudes of landlords, rental agencies and other housing market professionals towards renters with disabilities.

If you are interested in reading the study in full, or in reading an additional four papers intended to “complement and further illustrate the complex issues surrounding both housing discrimination against people with MD and the involvement of people with MD in testing for housing discrimination,” please follow this link.

How ILO Can Help

At ILO we help participating families and self-advocates create inclusive, intentional communities, by providing the training and guidance to build from the ground up. This training, called the New Futures Initiative™/ ILO Training, helps families overcome any barriers to independent living that their self advocate may be facing. We help families create a community and a living option that is designed around the hopes and dreams of the self-advocate, but is still supported according to that individual’s needs. We also help create (and then facilitate) networks of support so self-advocates can integrate into communities and live successful, well-rounded lives.

If you would like to learn more about ILO or the work that we do creating supported communities, building networks of support, and helping self advocates build and lead full lives, contact us. We currently support communities in Maryland and Washington, D.C., and have recently began to expand our supported communities into Northern Virginia.

If you would like the opportunity to join ILO’s community without having to commit to the independent living journey, you may wish to check out ILO’s Community Group.

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