Government must seek partners to house Californians with disabilities

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OPINION: There is nothing more frightening for a parent than not having the resources to care for a child. Yet, this is the reality for far too many Californians who have children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

I became intimately familiar with this crisis during my tenure as Speaker of the State Assembly and majority leader of the California State Senate. In meeting after meeting, I heard heartbreaking stories of parents fruitlessly searching for services and housing for their children with IDD inside of a system that was simply never designed to provision it.

The numbers are shocking and the challenge is only growing worse. Only 11 percent of adults with IDD in the United States rent or own their own homes. More than 60 percent live with their parents or other family members. As California’s population continues to age, this dynamic will prove unsustainable. I still vividly remember the faces—the anguished, desperate, dismayed faces—of many of the parents I met who told me that one of their biggest fears about aging and passing away is the fate of their children with IDD.

While the housing shortage for adults with IDD can often feel intractable, California lawmakers have been working to develop solutions. And the reality is that government cannot address the problem alone.

As a member of the California Senate, I was proud to support an innovative partnership between the state and a forward-thinking non-profit partner committed to creating housing for adults with IDD in Los Angeles. This organization, Cornerstone Housing for Adults with Disabilities, has been a staunch advocate for the rights of people with IDD. As the housing crisis has mounted in Los Angeles and across the state, Cornerstone has extended its mandate to developing housing tailored to the needs of adults with IDD.

While the housing shortage for adults with IDD can often feel intractable, California lawmakers have been working to develop solutions.

Later this year, Cornerstone will break ground on The Village, a 64-unit housing development in the heart of Los Angeles’ Pico-Robertson District designed for individuals with IDD.

The Village will provide much-needed housing for adults with IDD inside the city’s metropolitan core, complete with wrap-around services, including on-site health and career support. People with IDD were at the center of every aspect of the building’s design, ensuring The Village meets their needs and offers their families peace of mind.

Unlike many housing developments for people with IDD, The Village will not silo its residents from the broader community. By including mixed-use, ground-level retail space, The Village will actively integrate residents into the Pico-Robertson community, which offers an abundance of economic, cultural, and social opportunities. Residents will have more at their disposal than just four walls and a door; at The Village, they will also have the opportunity to find companionship and community in one of L.A.’s most vibrant neighborhoods.

Like countless other California innovations, The Village was made possible in part by financial support from the State Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom. Last year, we appropriated $9 million in the state’s annual budget to help fund the development.

The success of The Village should serve as a case study for lawmakers across the state and around the country about how public-private partnerships can help alleviate the struggles adults with IDD encounter when searching for housing.

The State Legislature and Gov. Newsom made housing the IDD population a priority in 2022. With The Village as a tangible result of this work—and a proven model that can be replicated to house adults with IDD in communities across the state—we must continue the charge to ensure no parent ever lies awake at night worried about where their son or daughter with IDD will one day live.

Bob Hertzberg is the former speaker of the California State Assembly and former majority leader of the California State Senate. 

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