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As states are increasingly challenged to ensure community living opportunities for non-elderly people with disabilities, the disability community - including people with disabilities, their families and friends, legislators, advocates, and service providers - are important partners in advocating for the creation of more integrated permanent supportive housing (PSH) options. Many states are seeking to expand integrated PSH to assure compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead decision, and to reduce reliance on expensive institutional care, and prevent and end homelessness among people with disabilities.

Recently enacted legislation modernizing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program provides a new opportunity for the disability community to advocate with their state housing finance agency (HFA) and their state health and human services/Medicaid (HHS/Medicaid) agency to form partnerships that can foster state-driven strategies to create more integrated PSH options and to compete for new Section 811 funds for this purpose.

What is Integrated Supportive Housing?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead decision, requires public entities such as states to administer services, programs, and activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of individuals with disabilities. Supportive housing is an evidence-based, cost-effective approach which combines permanent affordable rental housing with voluntary, flexible and individualized services to assist the most vulnerable people with disabilities to live in the community. Integrated supportive housing approaches locate new housing units in high quality affordable rental properties that primarily assist households without disabilities. To maximize opportunities for community integration, the new Section 811 approach described below requires that no more than 25% of the units in any Section 811 funded property be set aside for people with disabilities.

New Section 811 Opportunities

HUD's Section 811 Program is a critical program that assists the lowest income people with significant and long-term disabilities to live independently in the community by providing affordable housing linked with voluntary services and supports.

The Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2010 reformed the Section 811 Program by authorizing a systematic and state-oriented approach to the creation of integrated supportive housing units.

Some state's HFAs have already implemented the integrated supportive housing approach that is now the centerpiece of HUD's new Section 811 policy. These states created supportive housing units for people with disabilities by including incentives or requirements to set aside units within affordable rental properties the HFA finances using mainstream affordable housing development resources (e.g., federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, HUD Home funds, etc.).  These HFAs also formed partnerships with state HHS/Medicaid agencies to ensure referrals of people with disabilities to set-aside units and secure commitments of supportive services to tenants. 

Role of the Disability Community

The most significant Melville Act innovation is the new Section 811 Project Rental Assistance (PRA) option which - for the first time - provides cost-effective PRA subsidies directly to state HFAs (or other appropriate entities). As the eligible applicant for these PRA subsidies, an HFA is required to establish a formal written partnership agreement with the state HHS/Medicaid agency.

The disability community can help by asking state HHS/Medicaid officials to contact their HFA so they can enter into an 811 partnership to apply for these new funds.  You can also help your HHS agency understand that implementation of this type of formal partnership agreement is aligned with related policy and funding initiatives to increase integrated supportive housing options for people with disabilities. These include U.S. Department of Justice Olmstead-related activities to enforce the community integration mandates within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and several new initiatives in the Affordable Care Act, including the expanded Money Follows the Person (MFP) Initiative.

The disability community can also be an important stakeholder for state HFAs that need help explaining the benefits of supportive housing to affordable housing developers.  Many providers of services to people with disabilities may also be interested in partnerships with nonprofit affordable housing developers eligible to apply for the Multifamily Capital Advance/Project Rental Assistance Contract (PRAC) option authorized by the Melville Act.  This option modernizes the traditional Section 811 model by providing capital as well as project rental assistance to nonprofit organizations for the creation of integrated supportive housing units.

Tools & Resources

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