A Home of My Own , Part One

Presentation: A Home of My Own

Speaker: Ross Chilton CEO Community Living Society (CLS), January 18th 2017

Below Notes taken by Joette

Many of the calls of concern from families coming to organizations such as CLS are about housing and affordability. This is reflective of the gap between the Disability monthly housing allowance of $375.00 and the average price of a one-bedroom apartment at $1,600 – $2,000.

The existing crisis, particularly in the Lower Mainland, but also in other cities around the Province, has gained the attention of decision makers regarding the need for affordable housing. The Provincial Government has proposed the creation of 114, 000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years. The Federal Governments has also taken some responsibility, after a 30-year hiatus, for the provision of affordable housing. Some municipalities, such as Vancouver and New Westminster, feel that they can be partners in resolving the acute need for affordable housing through the means that that are available to them – for example, the rezoning of municipally held property, rezoning to higher density to increase supply, and demanding that developers provide non-market housing in exchange for density bonuses.

Those in attendance expressed their agreement with existing research that families want for their supported individuals what everyone wants – safe and affordable homes, meaningful employment, and to love and be loved. They want their adult children to be independent, but not isolated from community either geographically or socially.

HISTORY OF INSTITUTIONS

In the past it was commonly believed that grouping the disabled together was the best way to keep them safe. However, placing people institutions, large and small, from hospitals to half-way houses, most often does not provide residents with the opportunity to control their day-to-day living, and therefore, the dignity of self-determination. Ross shared the quote that smaller institutions are not the solution, from them we have merely “learned to disappoint people in much smaller numbers”. Residents in this type of housing often find themselves in enclaves for disabled people, rather than citizens in a broader community.

Ross cautioned that how an adult child with a developmental disability envisions his or her future may be different from what their parents envision for them. The young adult may not want to share housing with others with developmental disabilities, or with other families. Current thinking is that opportunity leads to skills; that it might be better to provide the desired housing opportunity first, and then support individuals in gaining the life skills that they need as they need them.

The 2016 IGNITE CONFERENCE examined the following housing models:

  • Group homes
  • Shared living
  • Supported or independent living
  • Living with parents

There are no reliable statistics on the number of people who require affordable housing due to developmental disabilities. Some of them have never been registered for services, and some have simply merged into the homeless population.

BC HOUSING AND CLS

BC Housing and CLS are discussing the housing crisis in general as well as how to address together the problems of those who fall between the cracks and receive no help or the wrong help. CLS could become a housing support agency.

Currently, the main priorities of the provincial Government are mental health and drug addiction. However, as safe & secure housing is key to achieving success on all other fronts, addressing these “top priority” needs should therefore, also be the impetus for affordable housing solutions.

WHAT WORKS OR COULD WORK?

Models:

  • Families collaborating to purchase/develop housing and/or supporting each other to share information and advocate for affordable housing. However, families without deep pockets want help – in the form of access to development advice/expertise, access to low interest development funds, parental funding matched by government grants, the ability to apply Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) to housing.
  • Church or service provider led housing – in our February 2018 meeting we will present a Church led mixed use development soon to be under construction.
  • Developer/Government/Social Service Provider partnerships. Typically, this involves the various levels of government providing the land and/or zoning relaxations and density bonuses to allow developers to build more units in exchange for building some affordable housing units for special needs individuals. The service providers contribute the social supports, and perhaps property management post-construction. The link between transit and affordable housing is increasingly understood – people with lower incomes and people with disabilities often do not drive. Therefore, there are building cost savings to be gained if developers are allowed to provide fewer parking spaces. The role of government in this example would be to ensure good transit connections. CLS new 6 unit building. Building plans such as BACI’s 12 units of housing that layers those with disabilities on the ground floor for ease of access, another floor for seniors, and another for students.
  • Government programs that offer support through rental subsidies, that may even be portable – that is, that are attached to an individual, rather than a building.

Safety and security post-construction:

Ross feels that technology can provide solutions to many families concerns for their individual’s safety and well-being through virtual support such as:

  • “Find my phone app” to track an individual through GPS tracking of their iPhone.
  • Automatic door and light sensors, auto emergency advisor systems, digital medication reminders.
  • Meal or ingredients delivery services.

As well, there are things that we can do as families to help support our young adult to live independently successfully.

  • Encourage them to develop predictable patterns of behavior – e.g. shopping at same grocery store – to establish community connections.
  • Help them to build a personalized guide book, based upon their specific interests and preferences, which can include useful ideas, recipes, lists of things to remember etc.