BOSTON (February 25, 2014) -- Autism Speaks joined with other autism advocates at a joint legislative hearing today in support a bill designed to address the shortage of affordable housing for individuals with intellectual disabilities, including autism.
Leslie Long [left], Autism Speaks' director of adult services, presented the Joint Committee on Housing with a survey report completed late last year by Autism Speaks that documented the existing shortages in adult housing and support services already faced by the autism community. The Executive Summary to the Autism Speaks National Housing & Residential Supports Survey was released last November.
"At Autism Speaks, we know all too well that there is a national shortage of housing and residential supports for adults with autism, and that this problem will only get worse as approximately 500,000 teens with autism, many of whom are living with aging caregivers, enter adulthood over the coming decade," Long told the committee.
She spoke in support of HB.3364, sponsored by Rep. Jason Lewis, which would take a four-pronged approach to addressing the adult housing shortage in Massachusetts:
- Increase and stabilize funding for Individual Development Accounts by creating a tax credit
- Create a tax-advantaged savings mechanism for families to cover housing expenses for a family member with a disability
- Increase housing production for individuals with developmental disabilities by prioritizing funding through the Housing Innovations Fund for projects serving clients who do not qualify under the Community Based Housing or Facilities Consolidation Funds
- Allow each bedroom to count as one unit of affordable housing in group homes where services are funded through MassHealth or other agencies, as opposed to only those where services are funded through DDS or DMH
Long’s testimony focused directly on the Autism Speaks survey results, which were based on over 10,000 responses from across the country. The survey found:
- Most families and individuals with autism lack information on housing development and support services
- When asked to rank their top concerns, nearly half cited paying for housing and 40% cited paying for the necessary support services
- Only three in ten families expressed confidence they would be able to help finance housing for the individual with autism
- Among those families, nearly half said they could afford to pay no more than $500 per month; 85% said they could contribute no more than $1,000 monthly
- Just one in four families report saving money for future housing and residential support services
- Only 6% of individuals with autism were on a waiting list for a rental or housing voucher; only 24% were on a waiting list for support services
- Only 11% of individuals with autism are employed and able to contribute financially in any way
- More than a third of all families lack outside help to support their loved one with autism and were in need of assistance
“The national housing survey demonstrates the depth of the crisis faced by individuals with autism and their families," Long told the committeee. "States must find creative ways to provide housing and supports. We applaud Representative Lewis for introducing HB.3364 and commend Massachusetts for considering new ways of meeting the needs of the autism community.”
Prior to testifying, Long appeared with other Massachusetts autism advocates on an NPR Cape and Islands radio show, where she explained the importance of local efforts such as HB.3364.
“What it comes down to is what we’re seeing in Massachusetts with this bill," Long said. "Things have to happen on a state level, on a local level, because it’s all in the details. State and local advocates and families really know what’s happening in their communities and what is needed.
"They know whether tax credits are needed, where more development is needed, the need for more money in the Medicaid system, etc.," she continued. "So we are trying on a national level to help lift these voices so people know what is going on on the ground.”