Capitol Correspondence - 05.02.23

Senator Casey Introduces VITAL Act to Increase Accessible and Affordable Housing for People with Disabilities

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Last week, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chair of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, introduced the Visitable Inclusive Tax Credits for Accessible Living (VITAL) Act to address the housing affordability and accessibility crisis for people with disabilities. This bill aims to increase investment in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program and ensure that developers are building more accessible housing units that are designed for older adults and people with disabilities and are located within communities where residents can walk or move around easily in wheelchairs.

According to a 2011 study from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), less than 6% of housing is designed to be accessible. An accessible home can offer specific features and technologies, such as lowered kitchen counters and sinks, widened doorways, grab bars, and no-step showers.

The VITAL Act is endorsed by various disability rights organizations such as ANCOR, The Kelsey, The Arc of the United States, National Disability Rights Network, and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, among others. This bill has also received support from groups such as the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the National Council on Aging.

The LIHTC is a federal program providing tax credits to developers who build new housing for low-income renters. The VITAL Act would increase funding for the LIHTC program to increase the number of accessible homes so that more people with disabilities and older adults can live in the communities they choose. It would also require that the states administering LIHTC construct at least 20% of their LIHTC units as accessible and/or walkable and rollable.

“Far too many older adults and people with disabilities cannot afford accessible housing, live in unsafe housing, or live in institutions even though they’d prefer to stay in their communities. This is unacceptable,” said Senator Casey. “We need to ensure that families have a real choice when it comes to the place they call home. My legislation would ensure that we are ramping up accessible housing development to meet the widespread needs of these communities.”

Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Peter Welch (D-VT) are cosponsoring the VITAL Act. Senator Duckworth said, “Anyone living with a disability deserves equal access to housing that accommodates their needs, is affordable and provides a safe environment for them to thrive. We must do more to make sure Veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities can live the full, independent lives they deserve, which is why I’m proud to help Senator Casey introduce this bill to help make that a reality.”

To learn more about the VITAL Act, read the US Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Press Release.