Editorial: Let’s make affordable housing for disabled Hoosiers a priority

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It is encouraging to see several housing projects for Hoosiers with disabilities opening in the Indianapolis area, but demand is clearly outstripping supply.

As IBJ’s Leslie Bonilla Muñiz reports in a story on page 1A, units are filling up almost faster than developers and not-for-profits can build them.

That’s because there’s just not enough affordable housing with accommodations like lowered kitchen counters and wider doorways for the 250,000 disabled people who live in the Indianapolis metro area.

Hoosiers with disabilities account for 12% of the civilian noninstitutionalized population in our region, and many live with aging parents who might soon be unable to care or provide for them, putting them at risk of homelessness or institutionalization.

Thankfully, new housing projects will help. They include Damar Village, south of Indianapolis International Airport; Line Lofts Apartments, on the near-east side; and SouthPointe Village Apartments, in Fishers. Crossbridge Pointe in Whitestown is on the way.

But these projects will only make minimal progress toward meeting the need. And their development required substantial federal aid or tremendous support by not-for-profit donors—approaches that will have to be replicated many times over to make significant headway.

The projects have to be financed in such a way to allow them to offer affordable rents to their disabled tenants, many of whom live on Supplemental Security Income of $794 monthly.

That income level is so low that it would price any recipient out of every rental housing market in the nation, according to the Boston-based Technical Assistance Collaborative.

Developers can receive federal housing credits to help make the financing work, but only 10% of the credits are set aside for developments serving people with intellectual or development disabilities. In exchange, the projects must offer affordable housing for at least 15 years.

Damar Services and other not-for-profits fund their projects through capital campaigns. But it’s clear that philanthropy alone can’t meet the region’s ongoing need for disabled housing.

It will take public-private partnerships with government, business and philanthropic leaders at all levels to come up with creative approaches and solutions.

 Congressional leaders should consider expanding the federal housing voucher program to provide affordable rents to more disabled Americans.

 Local communities throughout the Indianapolis area should explore pooling some of their federal funding from the American Rescue Plan to create or help fund housing projects for disabled Hoosiers.

 Local zoning and planning officials should look for creative ways to incentivize developers to add affordable-housing units for disabled Hoosiers to many of their projects.

 Companies and not-for-profits should consider partnerships that could create work and housing opportunities for some disabled Hoosiers in one-stop communities.

No single approach will solve the housing problem. It will take a multifaceted vision that needs to be developed now on many fronts to prevent a crisis.•


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