Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It can take years to find affordable, accessible housing

If you are younger than 62 and have a disability, the chances of realizing “there’s no place like home” for yourself are about as likely as drawing an inside straight in a casino.

“There is a two- to four-year waiting list for those under 62 who have a disability to find a place to live they can afford and is accessible,” said David Layne, one of 20 housing specialists in Michigan who tries to find those with disabilities and seniors appropriate places to live.

In the 1960s and 1970s when the Department of Housing and Urban Development created subsidized housing known as HUD 202, “seniors didn’t want the younger people with disabilities living in there,” said Layne. Under the federal program, 30 percent of a person’s gross income goes for rent.

“At one time, the homes had 5 percent of the units set aside for non-elderly with a disability and for a short period of time, there were 10 percent of the units for those under 62 and disabled,” he said. “And then it went to zero” because of protests by seniors who, ironically, didn’t want to live with those with disabilities even though many of them were disabled due to age or illness.

To live in subsidized housing rather than in a nursing homes saves taxpayers a fortune, according to the Kaiser Foundation. It found it about $2,300 a month to have a person with a disability living in HUD housing, or other community settings instead of the minimum $6,800 it costs taxpayers to place someone in a nursing home.

After finding resistance from seniors to living in subsidized housing or apartments with those with disabilities, HUD created the HUD 811 housing program for those who are disabled and under 62, Layne said. However, Congress “never funded 811s with the same vigor as they funded the 202s, leaving many hoping for the day when they can call a nice place their home.”

Meanwhile, many in Michigan and the nation who were younger and disabled still are in nursing homes or with their aging parents.

In 2012, Layne said Congress “finally significantly funded 811 housing.”
“Our hope is over the course of the next five years that thousands and thousands of units (will open up to the younger people with disabilities),” Layne said.

In Michigan alone, there are nearly 40,000 people living in nursing homes and 1.7 million nationwide.

During the past three years, Layne said transition programs in Michigan nonprofits such as MORC Inc. through Michigan Home & Community Based Services have helped more than 4,000 people statewide move out of nursing homes.”

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Michigan Department of Community Health and the Michigan Disability Rights Commission, applied for 200 vouchers last year to move the disabled into their own homes but the grant request was denied.

There are 250,000 people in Michigan who are disabled and receive Supplemental Security Income and 45 percent of them live in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties, Layne said.

He predicted HUD soon will be asked by Michigan representatives for 150 vouchers for 811 housing with 75 being matched by MHSDA statewide.

But, he said, “we are just scratching the surface” in providing housing needs for the disabled.

“We will give vouchers first to those in institutions and those at risk of going into a nursing home when we get (the vouchers) them,” Layne said. “We won’t quit until we get them.”

He also said some American House assisted living facilities have decided to take people who are disabled and younger, some of their properties accepting those at age 55, others at age 62.

“American House has more than 200 Mi Choice clients in their properties in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Genesee, and Washtenaw counties, Layne said.

“They have been a wonderful partner and very caring for those with limited resources.”
But both the HUD 811 program and initial efforts of American House to provide homes for the younger adults with disabilities is not enough, Layne said. “The goal is to have enough affordable housing units so when care is needed, everyone including those with disabilities get to say, ‘there’s no place like home!’.”

Jerry Wolffe, the Disability Rights Advocate/Writer in Residence at MORC, Inc., can be reached at 586 263-8950.