Contributed by Alicia Neptune, Communications Specialist
Having a home of one’s own is about so much more than just a place to live. A home can offer more independence and freedom to live the life you choose. Inclusive affordable housing also gives people the opportunity to be engaged in their community and feel a sense of belonging.
My Home My Community is a national initiative working to ensure people with developmental disabilities have the same housing choices as everyone else. Their current video series profiles innovative approaches to inclusive affordable housing models being implemented across Canada. The series tells the success stories of projects with three different approaches: agency-driven, family-driven, and partnership-driven.
One of these success stories comes from here in BC. Chorus Apartments in South Surrey is owned and operated by UNITI, a partnership of Semiahmoo House Society, The Semiahmoo Foundation, and Peninsula Estates Housing Society. It was the first purpose-built rental apartment in Surrey in more than 30 years.
Chorus combines independent living units for people with developmental disabilities with affordable rental housing. The project is focused on helping UNITI fulfill its mission of supporting people with disabilities to lead full lives in their community. The building has 71 units, 20 of which are reserved for tenants with developmental disabilities.
When developing the idea, Semiahmoo House Society was looking for a sustainable, long term housing model. The Society gathered individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to better understand their preferences. The consultation process continued as the project progressed with the goal of independent living in mind. Since Chorus officially opened in 2016, those tenants have shared stories about their new independence and the sense of community they feel there. The inclusive apartment has allowed many individuals to take charge of their lives and strengthen their relationships with friends and neighbours.
The series also includes the story of a family-driven project called Community Involvement Legacy Homes in Brockville, Ontario. Legacy Homes helps people with intellectual disabilities to have a home of their own, in their community, without having to deal directly with the complexities of home ownership. It was in part a response to concerns from older parents who worried about being unable to support their children at home in the future. Among the key principles behind Legacy Homes is the belief that “home is the base from which you participate in life and are connected to your neighbourhood and your community.”
The final video in the series features several partnership-driven projects in Toronto, including affordable housing in Toronto’s expensive downtown. For Community Living Toronto, finding ways to build relationships with developers and community members was key to creating inclusive living environments for the people they serve.
Each model approaches inclusive, affordable housing in a different way, but they share a few key elements. They support individuals to live independently and get the support they need in their own home. These models also allow people to live in their communities, near family and friends and close to activities they enjoy. And each model presents potential solutions for overcoming the barriers that people with developmental disabilities face in accessing housing. Ultimately, these projects provide people more choice about where and how they live.
My Home My Community is sharing models that work in the hopes they will be replicated. These examples demonstrate some of the ways that organizations can partner with communities and developers to create housing models that not only provide support, but also advance social inclusion.
Watch the full playlist:
My Home My Community is a national partnership initiative of the Canadian Association for Community Living and People First of Canada and their member organizations. You can learn more at www.myhomemycommunity.ca.