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Business community needs to work with groups that serve the disabled

May 14, 2018
Millersvile group home

In April, community leaders and members of Arundel Community Development Services Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to creating affordable housing opportunities and improving the lives of low-income individuals through community development, joined in opening the doors of a new affordable and accessible home in Millersville.

This five-bedroom dream home is complete with Americans with Disabilities Act features for accessibility. Its completion signifies a milestone in creating independent housing for our community of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or I/DD, who qualify for Section 8 housing.

This multiyear vision was completed in March. Four bedrooms are on the main level, with two ADA bathrooms and a fully accessible kitchen with an ADA ramp off the back of the home.

The home also includes an in-law suite in the basement, with one bedroom, one bathroom, a kitchen and a living room. This allows for a live-in caregiver to support those living in the house.

Many organizations committed to people with I/DD are eager to replicate the achievements of the Millersville ADA home across Anne Arundel County and on the Eastern Shore. But organizations that want to create affordable and accessible housing face the challenge’s of today’s home-seller’s market.

Competitive bids send asking prices skyrocketing. This favors the sellers and creates a huge disadvantage for organizations with set budgets for purchasing and renovating homes to be accessible for people with disabilities.

Many people with I/DD qualify for Section 8 vouchers, enabling them to afford safe and accessible housing in the private market. But access to these vouchers is limited.

Millersville Family group photo of residentsAccording to the Housing Commission of Anne Arundel County, nearly 500 families with disabilities are on the waiting list for housing vouchers. That doesn’t include many other individuals and families that wish to be on the waiting list. It has been closed to new applicants since 2014, and there’s no indication it will open within the next year.

Those who do have a voucher are often unable to find a home that meets their needs based on their mobility. Data from the HCAAC also identifies more than 2,000 families with disabilities and housing needs. These families say that accessibility is their most pressing need, outranking location, which in turn places higher than affordability.

Supply and quality have the same intermediate ranking as location. That’s no surprise, as the demand for affordable and accessible homes will only continue to increase, especially as people with disabilities live longer due to advances in health care and other support services.

The Section 8 crisis impacts the nation as whole. We don’t have a solution to the larger issue, but we can make strides right here in our community. Creating increased access to more accessible and affordable homes would allow people with I/DD — our neighbors — the opportunity to own or live independently, in homes that suit their needs.

Perhaps if our business community, especially those in real estate, worked in unison with organizations that serve people with I/DD in Anne Arundel County and on the Eastern Shore, we can together identify a localized solution that would both benefit the sellers and create more affordable and accessible living opportunities.

By Jonathon Rondeau, CEO of The Arc Central Chesapeake Region.

This article originally appeared in The Capital Gazette on May 12, 2018. It can be accessed here.

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