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MI Report: Invest Rescue Plan Funds in Affordable, Accessible Housing


Wednesday, March 23, 2022   

A new report found older Michiganders and people with disabilities face some of the greatest barriers to housing, and systemic racism has led to higher rates of disability among people of color.

Renter households at or below 30% of the median income in Michigan are 77% more likely to include older adults or adults with disabilities.

Julie Cassidy, senior policy analyst at the Michigan League for Public Policy and the report's author, said the pandemic worsened a shortage of affordable housing which had already reached a crisis point in many communities, and people with disabilities and older Americans often are disproportionately impacted.

"Skyrocketing home prices and rents over the last decade or so really affect them the most," Cassidy pointed out. "And people with disabilities have faced compounding discrimination throughout their lives, and that limits their earnings as adults."

The report showed nearly one in three Michiganders has a disability, and Michigan is one of the fastest-aging states in the nation. Cassidy argued it is important to use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to both promote aging in place and to improve quality of life for those in congregate nursing-home settings.

Cassidy added disability rates increase with age, and systemic racism has created disparities as well. She noted Black, brown and Indigenous people face higher exposure to pollution, substandard housing conditions and experience of toxic stress at higher rates.

"Many of these things are a result of residential segregation and other discriminatory housing policies that have been occurring in our country for decades, and those disparities widen as people grow older," Cassidy explained. "In this way, kind of ableism and ageism tend to have a disproportionate impact on people of color."

The report suggested using American Rescue Plan funds to invest in home repairs and modifications for safety and accessibility, expand access to home- and community-based care and invest in the care workforce. It also recommended reducing nursing-home crowding by developing smaller homes, for 10 or 12 people, and converting multi-person rooms to singles to reduce the spread of contagious illness.

Cassidy emphasized the importance of accessible housing being well integrated into the community. She contended when developers seek subsidies from the state, accessibility standards vary based on size of the building, so there are often not enough units, and they are often segregated in certain buildings or neighborhoods. She hopes to see new standards applied to all buildings.

"This will give people more options throughout the community," Cassidy outlined. "And give them options in neighborhoods where they have better access to jobs, education, health care, transportation, recreation, all of those things that we all need to live a full and healthy life."

Disclosure: Michigan League for Public Policy/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Children's Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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