The Need for Accessible and Affordable Housing

Posted by The Arc of North Carolina
Author: Holly Watkins
The damage left in the wake of Hurricane Florence is catastrophic. Many people, including members of our staff and people that we serve, are trying to rebuild their lives. Some have lost everything and are unable to work because their place of employment is closed due to storm damage.
While we work together to help those in need, one thing has been made clear. North Carolina needs more affordable and accessible housing for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). 
Approximately 70% of people with I/DD who live in North Carolina have a need for housing. Many do not have enough income or benefits to live in a home that is accessible and meets their needs. On average, a person with I/DD makes about 18% Area Median Income (AMI) in the U.S. which is about $9,000 per year. 
“The Arc of North Carolina believes that all people should be empowered to live in accessible, affordable housing in inclusive communities of their choosing”, said John Nash, Executive Director.  “In our experience, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities tend to be healthier and more successful when their social determinants of health, including a safe place to live, are met”.
The average person with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities can only afford to pay around $220 in rent in the State of NC. 43% of renter households in North Carolina can’t afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.
The lack of affordable housing has created obstacles to community integration for people with disabilities. As a result, public resources for services are mostly focused on costly, crisis oriented, institutionally based systems, such as psychiatric hospitals, prisons, jails, nursing homes and homeless shelters. 
“North Carolina is in the midst of a crisis on affordable housing which has been exacerbated by Hurricane Florence”, said Sara Grignon, Chief Operating Officer, Housing. “We must work together and ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have affordable housing options so that they can live and work in the community of their choosing”.
Since 1978, in an effort to provide alternatives to large institutions, The Arc of North Carolina has developed over 342 residences that are operated in partnership with local organizations. These residences include group homes, small apartment buildings, duplexes and condominiums, together serving more than 2,200 residents. 
The State of North Carolina has been innovative in their approach to funding housing for extremely low income. The Targeting Key programs highlights the feasibility and effectiveness of using a sustainable low-cost project-based rental subsidy to finance new integrated extremely low income (ELI) permanent supportive housing (PSH) units. Moving forward, the State of North Carolina needs to continue to find ways to fund these programs and broaden the programs out to include all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 
Governor Roy Cooper has discussed the need for affordable housing in North Carolina. The Arc of North Carolina applauds this statement and we look forward to working together with Governor Cooper and his team to ensure that people with disabilities have the affordable, accessible, and safe housing that they deserve.