With the State of California in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, the Lanterman Housing Alliance (LHA), through funding received from the CA State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD), worked with CSH to launch an initiative to create a Statewide Strategic Framework to expand housing opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).
In California, the Lanterman Act establishes the right to services and supports for people with I/DD that enable them to live more independent and normal lives. In order to fulfill the goals of the Lanterman Act, access to safe and affordable housing is critical for this population. However, with the state’s longstanding housing crisis, access to housing in the community is extremely limited.
A developmental disability is defined by the State of California as a substantial disability caused by a mental and/or physical impairment manifested prior to the age of 18 and expected to continue indefinitely. The definition includes cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, intellectual disabilities, and other conditions closely related to intellectual disabilities that require similar treatment. There are between 338,000 and 629,000 people with I/DD living in California, depending on whether you use the State or Federal definition. Over the past decade, this vulnerable population has grown four times faster than the general population. Most of these individuals are extremely low income, living on minimum wage or fixed SSI/SSP incomes that comes out to approximately $900 per month.
Today, more than 80% of people with I/DD live in a family home. This statistic is a major victory for a system that in the late 1990s began closing its state-run institutions with the objective to transition services to a more community integrated model with increased choice and the least restrictive setting as possible. However, this achievement has had an unintended consequence. The current housing infrastructure is insufficient to meet the needs of adults with I/DD when their aging caregivers are no longer able to continue to provide the same level of support and housing stability.
A primary challenge to analyzing this housing shortage is the current insufficient data collection mechanism that can factor housing need versus housing choice, imminent changes in living situation due to a death, eviction, property sale, or the age/health of family caregivers. These variables are essential to identifying a quantifiable number of units needed to meet the housing demand for this population. The Strategic Framework therefore offers broad estimates of supportive housing need between the range from 450 housing units needed –when taking into consideration those who are reported homeless– to more than 20,000 housing units needed – when factoring in adult consumers living in a family home with aging caregivers.
A community survey to gather additional qualitative information was launched to inform the Statewide Strategic Framework. It spotlighted the expressed desires, attitudes, and experiences of consumers, family members, service providers, regional centers, property managers, and housing developers. Its primary finding was that the largest housing barrier facing people with I/DD and their families was the lack of affordable housing, insufficient income, long waiting lists for housing vouchers, or landlords who won’t accept vouchers. It was also clear that this population desires a “range of housing” options including independent living, supportive housing, shared housing, licensed group homes, etc. Yet, according to the California Housing and Community Development Department (HCD) the state is creating 100,000 fewer units needed per year to meet the demand of its residents. This reality acutely affects people with I/DD who are living on fixed incomes or minimum wage salaries.
For decades, policy makers, housing advocates, regional centers, and a small group of housing developers have worked tirelessly to address the housing needs of people with I/DD through a combination of housing models that include low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) set asides, shared residential homes, use of rental assistance/operating subsidies, and housing transition services. These models should be viewed as examples of what works, and policy should be developed to continue to grow their impact while new models and resources are created to assist in filling in the gap.
The Statewide Strategic Framework identified several examples of nationwide initiatives that have been successful in expanding affordable and supportive housing resources for people with I/DD. Examples in Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, Florida, and New York identify local and state efforts to expand community integrated housing for people with I/DD. These examples offer valuable lessons learned about how to design programs and craft partnerships to expand housing resources.
Current funding in California available to support capital needs, operating expenses, and supportive services are explored in the Strategic Framework, with a focus on how available resources can be better leveraged to create housing specifically for people with I/DD. Lessons learned include insights on how best to utilize services through the regional center system, capital funding through state and local agencies (e.g., HOME, Community Development Block Grant, LIHTC, etc.), and operating subsidies (e.g. Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Program, Section 811 Mainstream Voucher Program, etc.).
In addition to fully leveraging available resources, the Strategic Framework uncovered new funding models and innovative land use and housing development strategies for creating homes for people with I/DD. Examples of these new funding models include the Lanterman Coalition’s recent legislative proposal for capital and operating subsidy/rental assistance, DDS’s new Community Resource Development Plan funding, and State Proposition 1 and Proposition 2 funding – as well as innovative land-use and development strategies – such as advocating for accessory dwelling units, reduction or elimination of parking requirements, and LHA’s California Legacy Homes Program. These represent promising funding models and development strategies that have the potential for expanding housing opportunities for the I/DD community.
Lastly, the Statewide Strategic Framework researches several initiatives that have successfully expanded affordable and supportive housing opportunities for other vulnerable populations, including veterans, people with serious mental illness, and people experiencing homelessness. These lessons learned offer a practical roadmap for how the I/DD community can advocate for new housing resources and programs to address their unmet needs.
The SCDD released the Statewide Strategic Framework (draft Strategic Framework for Expanding Housing Opportunities for People with I/DD) for public comment in January 2019.