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People living with disabilities disproportionately impacted by the housing crisis

Posted at 5:09 PM, Jun 21, 2022

Luna Vista in Silicon Valley, California, is an affordable housing complex that is offering a unique solution to an issue many communities face.

The complex was built during the pandemic. Randy Tsuda is Alta Housing's CEO.

"We provide affordable housing for a wide range of folks in our communities, from families to seniors, and then more recently, for adults with developmental disabilities that have the ability to live independently," Tsuda said.

15 units out of 71 have been reserved for people living with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

"It's a great feeling for these clients, right, to have a place of their own and also for the parents to know, 'Oh, my son or daughter is part of an inclusive community where they're going to have support in place, and I don't really have to worry,'" Tsuda said.

Luna Vista resident David Piano says this is his first time living independently. He keeps his unit in pristine condition and recently received the employee of the year award at his workplace.

"I do janitorial work at the Army Reserve Center," Piano said.

Piano says he loves living on his own and having his own schedule.

"We have an indoor bike parking lot here for bikes," Piano said. "I'm only 5 minutes from work, so I can ride my bike if I want."

Dennise Jauregui works with a local nonprofit called Housing Choices. The nonprofit offers support services to those living with developmental disabilities.

"This location is close to public transit, and it's also close to shopping centers and food, which we know is extremely important for our clients because most of them don't drive," Jauregui said.

According to Carlean Ponder withThe Arc, a nonprofit that stands up for the civil rights of people with disabilities, it's important for people of this demographic to be offered support services like job coaching, financial advice, and healthy lifestyle classes.

"They’re newer models, but they're not exactly the norm when it comes to housing development," Ponder said. "And we need much more of that across the country if we're going to be able to provide homes for people where they want to live."

Ponder says there need to be creative collaborations between the federal government, banks, and housing developers to offer more affordable housing for people living with developmental disabilities. Tsuda says it takes many organizations for a community like Luna Vista to work.

"We had an incredible partner with the city of Mountain View that was willing to invest a considerable amount of money, about $22 million of local housing funds, into this project that we were then able to leverage through equity from the federal low-income housing tax credit program, as well as loans from Wells Fargo Bank," Tsuda said. "All of this is supported by the acquisition loan at the very earliest stages of the project from the Silicon Valley Housing Trust. So without their initial $8 million acquisition, none of this would have happened."

For that to be possible, Tsuda says the first step is for communities across the country to welcome the idea of inclusive and affordable housing.

"These types of apartments provide housing for folks already in your towns," Tsuda said. "There is already part of your cities and your communities there, folks, that you that support you and serve you every day."