Housing is a big issue for everyone in the Pikes Peak region! The cost to buy or rent a home is sky high with no end in sight. For people with disabilities, finding housing is even more daunting if there is a need for mobility access, public transit access, and/or affordability. It’s a triple whammy for sure!
Currently, The IC nursing home transition program has over 25 people waiting for accessible housing units so they can transition out of nursing homes and live in the community. People who are chronically homeless often have disabilities such as mental illness, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and physical disabilities. Add to that an aging population on their way to having mobility, sight, or hearing disabilities, and it is a recipe for disaster. So The IC is working to address the growing housing crisis in two ways: education/advocacy and services.
Through our Advocacy department, The IC addresses many barriers, including housing. The IC staff attends meetings and speaks to city and county staff, developers, and public policy makers about the extreme need for units that are accessible and affordable. We are working to educate the State on the need for vouchers that cover more of the cost of rising rents, without reducing the number of vouchers.
We are actively recruiting builders to construct single and multi-family housing using universal design (UD). We’ve also published and distributed three issue briefs that address accessible and affordable housing. In the first brief, Making Colorado Springs More Livable for Everyone via Universal Design (bit.ly/UD-livable), we note that millennials and seniors want similar features in housing – such as open spaces and wider doorways – so they can stay in their homes through many life changes. The second brief, Understanding and Asking for Universal Design (bit.ly/TheIC-UD), explains UD, encourages home buyers to ask for universal design principles, and presents data that supports the need for this type of housing. The third brief, The Promise of Visitability (bit.ly/ic-visit), calls for multi-unit or multi-home developments to be built in a way that allows friends and family of all ages and abilities to visit. This includes a no-step entrance, wider halls, and one larger bathroom on the main floor. Check out our short but informative briefs at each of the links above, and please feel free to share them.
Over the past year, The IC has become one of the largest managers of housing vouchers in the state. Our three housing coordinators have taken on 420 vouchers across eight housing programs that serve persons with disabilities and people who are homeless. Later this year, we anticipate taking over another 100 or so Veteran housing vouchers. However, in this hot housing market, it’s a challenge to find landlords who will take a voucher when they can get much more money by charging regular rents. So we’re actively searching for landlords who are open to renting to those with vouchers at the current rate, and helping them make their units accessible to as many people as is practical.
But we don’t stop there! Our housing staff also performs safety evaluations, assists with voucher paperwork, and helps consumers understand how much they must cover over the amount of the voucher. The IC also maintains a list of more affordable apartment buildings with accessible units. We give these to consumers who then make calls to see if there’s an available unit that meets their needs and budget. To keep from losing units, our staff meets with new building owners or managers to help them understand the positive impact of the vouchers currently accepted in that building.
Even as the housing market shrinks, The IC staff is working hard to expand the number of accessible housing units in the community so that all of us have a place to call home.