affordable housing

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Cooperative Housing Is Redefining ‘Home’ for People with Disabilities

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/09/2020 - 1:09am in

There’s a disability that affects three-quarters of Americans. It’s one that, globally, contributes to an annual loss of over 60 million collective years of life. That disability is vision loss. And while vision loss is debilitating for 4.6 percent of Americans, the vast majority of those with imperfect vision are largely unencumbered by it thanks to corrective lenses.

This experience of having a disability accommodated is so common that most people hardly think of vision loss as a disability at all. But for people with more serious disabilities, it isn’t so easy. One in four Americans has a serious cognitive or physical disability that affects their daily lives: 13.7 percent report mobility issues, 10.8 percent report cognitive impairment, 6.8 percent report difficulty living alone and 3.7 percent report difficulty in self-care, dressing, or bathing.

For these people, an affordable place to live that accommodates their disability is essential — and often, difficult to come by. “Living options for these people with disabilities are limited to being institutionalized or semi-independent living with [their] biological family, who are often overworked and too burnt out to provide such care,” says Esther Lee, an attorney at the Disability Law Collective. Lee has cerebral palsy, a disability that, as she puts it, affects her speech and mobility, but not her spirit.   

Lee is a co-founder of Able Community,  a non-profit co-housing cooperative designed for folks with disabilities. Able Community operates a house in a suburb of Chicago that balances interdependence with independence — an opportunity that, for folks with disabilities, is rare.

View this post on Instagram

Our first meal together at Able Community's house! Fish tacos and chicken tacos as seconds.

A post shared by Able Community (@ablecommunity) on Nov 6, 2017 at 4:45pm PST

Alongside advisory board members, the house’s residents, including Lee herself, control and coordinate resources and care services, like food purchases, health care and maintenance. Through fundraising and pooling resources, they have been able to maintain the property and renovate the house to be more accommodating to their particular needs.

Beyond physical accommodation, the co-op has also brought members a sense of community, belonging and joy. “Community means having friends you can count on, who encourage one another, and problem-solve issues faced together,” says Lee. This is what differentiates the Able Community from typical housing for folks with disabilities, which is typically controlled by government agencies, companies, or families. 

Money is a major barrier to independent housing for folks with disabilities. The structure of benefit programs like SSI, SNAP and Medicaid create paradoxes for recipients. SSI recipients, for instance, can earn only up to $65 per month before SSI benefits begin to phase out. “People with disabilities often need to choose between benefits (e.g., health insurance that covers meds, equipment, care services, etc.) and earning more than poverty level wages, which would disqualify them from any benefits and make them pay for everything themselves at exorbitant costs,” says Lee. 

In 2019, only 19.3 percent of people with a serious disability were employed. And while Americans with serious disabilities qualify for Social Security Income, it is hardly enough to cover living expenses. In 2020, the maximum SSI monthly payout for an individual is $783, not enough to cover the median rent in any U.S. state. Over the last decade, the SSI benefit has grown by roughly 10 percent. Over the same period of time, nationwide rent increased by 46.5 percent

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This is where Able Community’s model bridges the gap between affordability and autonomy. Supported by private donations, grants and member income, the housing is cheaper than market-rate renting and more independent than institutional housing. Services and essential purchases are collectively arranged, though Able Community makes clear on its website: “No, we are not a commune.” The organization has plans to build a 20-unit inclusive co-housing community “committed to including people with disabilities, open to a wide range of incomes, skills, and capacities.” The main barrier is not the imagination, will, or ability of the Able Community — just resources. 

Proof exists that it can be done, however. The Able Community’s goal of providing affordable, accessible co-housing at scale might look something like The Kelsey, a mixed-ability housing non-profit based in San Francisco.

Funded through grants, city funding, individual donations, investors and sponsors — including Google and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative — The Kelsey works to advocate for and directly build disability-inclusive housing in California. Building any new housing in California — especially in the Bay area — is an uphill battle, but in under two years, The Kelsey has secured permission for 240 new units of housing. The first project, set to break ground this winter after being delayed by the pandemic, is the Kelsey Ayer Station in San Jose.

The 115-unit Kelsey Ayer Station will be joined by the Kelsey Civic Center, a 125-unit development in the heart of San Francisco. Both will rent units at a number of income levels, and a quarter of the Civic units will be rented through the San Andreas Regional Center system, a branch of California’s network of private-public partnership organizations that coordinate and provide services to Californians with disabilities.

A rendering of the forthcoming Kelsey Civic Center. Courtesy of The Kelsey

The goal is to create housing that is both beautiful and accessible. “These are units that anyone would want. This is just like any other apartment complex that you or I would be interested in renting from,” says The Kelsey’s Manager of Communications and Partnerships Eric Mondragon, adding that the building was designed with input from architect and disability advocate Erick Mikiten. “For anyone who needs a wheelchair or power chair to get around, and also for people with non-physical disabilities, we’re thinking about interior design, color choice, lighting — it’s not only people with physical disabilities but people with all disabilities.” 

Upon the projects’ completion, The Kelsey plans to release a free guidebook for “Universal Design” guidelines for accessible homes. 

These projects don’t come cheap, however. Kelsey Ayer Station is projected to cost $75 million, a reflection of California’s expensive housing market and the often-high cost of building accessible housing. But Mikiten argues that housing for people with disabilities shouldn’t be seen as a niche amenity for a particular group. “Universal Design is not about disability; it’s about better living for everyone,” he writes on his website. 

This principle applies beyond architecture. “[For people with disabilities], the process to find a place to live as a roommate or stay as a vacationer is very difficult; it requires many more steps than for someone without a disability,” says Jeff Hinz, co-founder of Dwellability, a start-up that helps people with disabilities find roommates and vacation rentals. “A lot of times, people with disabilities have to hide their disabilities out of fear of shame and rejection, that they won’t be accepted.” 

Hinz’s service, which he co founded three years ago with his wife Elizabeth who has a disability, now has over 2,500 members. Dwellability’s goal is to build a community of renters and vacationers with disabilities, and, for Hinz, “community means that there is someone in your home who knows what you need.”

Housing models like these are premised on this notion, as well as the notion that when you center the voices of people with disabilities, accessibility follows. As Mondragon put it, “Rather than speak about people with disabilities, we have to include them and let them speak for themselves. There’s no need for us to speak for them.”

The post Cooperative Housing Is Redefining ‘Home’ for People with Disabilities appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Salisbury – the role of affordable housing in a family area

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/09/2020 - 2:45pm in

Dwelling trends Australia density house size

In today’s blog, Glenn uses a new housing monitor that was recently commissioned by the City of Salisbury to show you who lives in that part of Northern Adelaide, how patterns in housing tenure are changing in the area, and the types of dwellings that dominate the current supply of housing. He also shows how these factors fit together to highlight the challenges the City is working to address to ensure affordable and appropriate housing is available for its residents in the future.

Last week, the City of Salisbury in South Australia became the latest Australian council to add our housing monitor ( to their .id toolkit. As with all of our sites, it’s public access, and you can see the Salisbury housing story here.

The City of Salisbury is located in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, and its population of approximately 143,000 people makes it the second-largest LGA in that state. It has long been a family housing area, providing affordable home owning opportunities close to South Australia’s manufacturing jobs heartland. Along with its neighbour, Playford, Salisbury has been hit hard by the closure of the automotive industry, and contains significant areas of public housing stock, around a quarter of which has been sold off over the past 20 years.

The City has subscribed to our housing monitor to help understand their changing housing market, who is their core demographic, and inform council’s Affordable Housing Implementation Plan to achieve better, more affordable housing outcomes for individuals and families now and into the future. As a monitor, helps council assess how this plan is going, as it is regularly updated with new datasets on housing supply, demand and affordability.

What does tell us about Salisbury’s housing story?

Salisbury has a strong skew towards family households

45.0% of all household types are families with children – higher than the Adelaide average of 39.7%. But smaller household types – couples without children and lone person households made up the bulk of the increase in the last Census period and are expected to continue to do so through to 2036. Family households won’t fall in number, but as a percentage share of the population they will be lesser.

Housing tenure in Salisbury is shifting

While mortgages are the main tenure type, renting is on the increase. While social and affordable housing fell last Census, these households are moving into private rental predominantly, rather than home ownership.

3-bedroom separate houses

This one combination of housing type and size makes up 53.5% of all housing in Salisbury. All other housing forms are below the Greater Adelaide average in percentage terms, probably representing the time at which much of Salisbury’s housing was built (’60s-70s).

Lone person households

Lone persons are the most likely group to live in medium and high-density housing, but all household types show a lower rate of medium density housing than the Greater Adelaide average.

Couples with children in larger housing

Couples with children have an increasing attraction to larger housing formats, with large increases among 4+ bedroom separate houses and 3+ bedroom medium density.

Housing diversity in Mawson Lakes

The more recently developed suburb of Mawson Lakes has the greatest diversity of housing stock, with higher density forms making up 43% of dwellings here. This area is also higher socio-economic, with a large share of families with children – about 1 in 4 of whom live in higher density.

Consistent building approvals

Building approvals have been very consistent for the past 3 years at around 400 dwellings per annum. These have been located in a mixture of remnant greenfields locations in Burton and Paralowie. Mawson Lakes development is almost complete with only small pockets remaining in this area. The major feature of new building in Salisbury over 3 years is consistent infill development around Ingle Farm and Valley View. These are not major sites, but small-scale knockdown and rebuilds – unit developments through suburban streets.

In just the last year the number of building completions has exceeded the number of building approvals which is trending downwards. This is indicative of a slower economy (and this is not unique to Salisbury but is being seen in many areas around Australia).

Second-lowest SEIFA score in Greater Adelaide

Salisbury has the second-lowest Socio-Economic index for Greater Adelaide, with a SEIFA index of disadvantage of 917 in 2016. Approximately 41% of households classified as “Very low” or “Low” income (defined as less than 50% and less than 80% of the metropolitan median income, respectively), around 10% more in this category than Greater Adelaide.

Compressed housing prices

Housing prices reflect the similar style of housing stock, with a range of only $112,000 between the first and third quartile prices. But housing prices are not high in absolute terms –  with a median of $345,000 for houses, compared to Greater Adelaide’s $490,000 in June 2020.

Rents are similarly compressed, with the median rent being $345 in June 2020, and the range between entry-level and upgrader level of only $70. But lower housing costs doesn’t necessarily mean more affordability, because incomes in the area are lower.

Housing affordability in Salisbury

The result of these trends in Salisbury is a higher percentage of very low-income households in housing stress (compared to Greater Adelaide), but a lower percentage of low and moderate incomes in housing stress. Housing stress is defined as households paying more than 30% of their income on housing costs (rent or mortgage), but is not counted for households on high incomes (>120% of median).

Approximately 36% of rental stock in the last 12 months was affordable to low-income households, but only 1% was affordable to those on very low incomes. This shows very clearly the cutoff point of very low-income households who are largely restricted to public housing in the area.

Very low incomes in Salisbury are largely restricted to public housing, which is a declining tenure type. But for those on lower than average or moderate incomes, the area does represent an affordable entry into the housing market, both in rental and home ownership options. The most affordable suburbs for those on low incomes were Salisbury for units, and Para Hills for houses.

The housing challenge for Salisbury

The key challenge for Salisbury into the future will be retaining a strong affordable option for families looking to buy in the area, while diversifying housing stock to higher density forms suitable for the smaller households which will become dominant in future. At the same time, they will need to ensure that enough affordable housing is provided for those on low incomes (and public housing for very low incomes) in any new developments, which cater for a mix of household types and income points.

In summary, our housing monitor for Salisbury identifies a total of approximately 2,400 households – 4.7% of total households – having an unmet need for affordable housing. About a quarter of these are the absolute homeless, while almost 50% are low-income families in rental stress.

Accessing this housing monitor in your area

Our housing monitor ( is commissioned by local councils who need to understand the supply of affordable and appropriate housing in their area, to support advocacy, planning and community engagement programs. The tool is regularly updated so housing and affordability strategies can be monitored over time.

Find housing monitors for other local government areas

See a list of the councils who currently make available to the public here.

Add our housing monitor to your councils’

Visit our page here to learn more about how councils are using the housing monitor to make informed planning decisions, and speak with our team to arrange a demonstration.

Why Hospitals Are Building Housing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/03/2020 - 5:40am in

As U.S. coronavirus infections rolled past 30,000 this weekend, approximately one in four Americans is under some kind of order not to leave home. But as Ruth Ann Norton knows, which home they’re confined to makes a world of difference.

“Housing is such an integral part of health in this country,” says Norton, president and CEO of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, a non-profit that advocates for healthier housing measures like lead removal and clean air. For example, families that have lead removed are “less likely to have respiratory exacerbations,” which Norton says will likely have an impact in this pandemic, since coronavirus is a respiratory illness. “We did not think about or know about or anticipate the coronavirus, but what we know is that when people are better equipped, they’re less likely to be poisoned by lead, and be safer from injury.”

From eviction moratoriums to hastily reconfigured homeless shelters, the coronavirus is making one thing abundantly clear: the connection between health and housing runs deep. A Robert Woods Johnson Foundation report “found that low-income people with difficulty paying rent, mortgage or utility bills were less likely to have a usual source of medical care… [and] children in areas with higher rates of unaffordable housing tended to have worse health.” 

These links have become so apparent that some hospital systems have started spending their money not just on health care facilities and staff, but on housing for the communities they serve. These interventions have taken on new urgency amid the worst public health crisis in a century as people’s homes have become, quite literally, bulwarks against a dangerous disease. 

The neighborhood is a patient

Dr. Kelly Kelleher is vice president for community health at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, a pediatric teaching hospital with a staff of nearly 12,000 in Columbus, Ohio. In 2009, the hospital launched the Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families (HNHF) program to partner with residents of the city’s south side in making their neighborhood a healthier place to live. It began as a collaborative effort between the hospital, the mayor’s office, the faith-based Community Development for All People and the United Way. Effectively, the goal was to look at the neighborhood as a patient. 

“Children are largely affected by the residence they live in, especially early in their life,” says Kelleher.

On the south side of Columbus, says Kelleher, 30 percent of homes were vacant when the program was launched — the highest share in the city, which explains why residents, when asked about their biggest health concerns, ranked safe housing at the top of the list. 

With the hospital providing the financing, the HNHF coalition established a four-prong approach to using housing to improve health outcomes. The first prong is home repair for people at risk, like fixing widows and lighting. The second prong can include a full gut rehab to provide stable housing, the third is a low-income housing tax credit, and the fourth is creation and maintenance of single-family rentals for low-income workers.

“That combination of programs, with the goal of creating a mixed-income, stable community, bringing together diversity, provides the healthiest neighborhood possible,” says Kelleher. 

Over the past 10 years, Kelleher says, the hospital has invested $10 million and leveraged about $80 million more, acting as a guarantor in deals that it thinks will benefit the neighborhood. In April, HNHF will publish the initiative’s health outcomes in the journal Pediatrics. Though Kelleher couldn’t provide that data before it’s published, a report in Pediatrics from September 2018 found that the investments “have dramatically transformed the housing stock in the area and reduced blight” and “altered the vacancy rate… from greater than 25 percent to below the community average of six percent.”

The majority of HNHF housing has been built in the last five years, and in that time, Kelleher says that both the neighborhood environment and health have improved. There has been more market-rate investment, a reduction in crime and an increase in jobs and high school graduation rates. And, to the hospital’s point, the number of emergency room visits by children has gone down, as has the rate of child in-patient hospital stays. 

There’s still a lot of runway left, however. “We’re still 50,000 houses short for the community,” says Kelleher, noting the explosive growth Columbus anticipates in the coming years.

Other cities have followed suit. Boston Medical Center made a $6.5 million “community improvement” investment in 2017 as part of its larger plan to expand. BMC is investing in various projects, including funds for affordable, equitable housing as well as funding for community health workers to work directly in Boston’s housing developments, says Dr. Megan Sandel, one of the leaders of BMC’s housing initiative. 

According to Sandel, just 10 to 20 percent of health is determined by the type of health care received. The social determinants of health, such as where you live and your environment, are likely to have a much greater impact. 

BMC’s investments don’t go to site-specific housing directly — instead, they support organizations that work on housing and homelessness, including Boston Housing Authority. “Early evidence shows, by helping medically complex patients who were homeless, we’re seeing improvement in both their mental and physical health,” says Sandel.

The project is still quite new, and data has not been published yet, but the early evidence is positive. Sandel is looking forward to more conclusive results in years to come.

A race against recession

“We believe that [HNHF] will buffer that neighborhood” from the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus — “as long as we can maintain it,” Kelleher says of Columbus’s south side. “What I’m not clear about is what will happen to the system overall. If children are hospitalized at a much greater rate, it could overwhelm our system and we’ll have a negative year, financially, with insurance companies paying a lot more.” 

If that happens, Kelleher worries that the hospital will be compelled to refocus its diminished resources away from housing and back onto sick care.

“The health effects of the economy are far more profound on kids and their families than maybe even the virus,” he says. “If we don’t figure this out, we’re going to spend the next 20 years making up lost ground, on a whole generation of children. Do we retreat? Or think about these programs intentionally and address where they are most needed?”

It’s ironic that the coronavirus threatens to derail an initiative specifically aimed at improving the spaces where people are currently quarantined to avoid that very pandemic. Still, if the funding can outlast the current crisis, the idea may continue to catch on. Boston Children’s Hospital is following BMC’s lead, and has set aside $5 million for housing. In a report, WBUR noted that Massachusetts “spends about 40 percent of its money on health care, and one percent on housing. If health care leaders start speaking out about the need for more and better housing… that could help change the ratio in the long term.” 

The post Why Hospitals Are Building Housing appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.