I may only be seventeen, but I’m already thinking about where I’m going to live when I’m old enough. It’s not exactly my fantasy to live with my parents forever, you know? I also know my parents might try to build an ADU [accessory dwelling unit] in the backyard so that I can be independent while they are still nearby. I don’t have any opinion on that, per say, but I do think it’s a great idea!

I want to believe that someday I’ll have a place of my own with a roommate and a sound system. Really, those are my only non-negotiables – everything else is details. A roommate is important because that person will be able to remind me to do stuff like brush my teeth and take out the garbage like a neurotypical person, but more importantly, they will be the one who will buy the beer and order the pizza!

Joking aside, the question of where I’ll live in the future has been a topic of much discussion between my parents for probably five years. With the housing costs going higher and higher all the time, it’s scary to think about options for all of us, not only people with disabilities. Still, I’d like to propose some ideas:

  • What if we make ADU’s really affordable to build if you promise to rent them to people with disabilities? I don’t have the background to explain how that could be achieved, but I imagine it could be done through tax breaks and meaningful programs run in partnership with the city.
  • Make affordable housing a priority for all Oregonians by talking about it in the context of being a human right. We are well on our way to becoming San Francisco in terms of the great divide between those who can afford to live here and those who are no longer able to meet the cost of rent. There used to be a family down the street who had a daughter with autism my age, and I was sad to find out they were moving away because their landlord raised their rent to twice what it had been. Then there was the dad who lived around the corner with his son who was like me in so many ways – their place was pretty run down, but it was sold as a fixer-upper with a price that was still way beyond the dad’s means. We lost a bit of our neighborhood’s charm when they left.
  • What if we make it meaningful for people to rent rooms in their homes to people with disabilities so that they can have the comfort of being around a family, but not necessarily their own? I can think of a number of my parents’ friends with whom I would live because they are super cool people. By making it feasible for them to make some money while providing a safe and meaningful place to live seems like a win-win situation for everyone.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that Oregon is an amazing place to live, and we all deserve to be housed in a place that is a home and not just a shelter. What that might look like depends on the values and priorities of each community. Let’s make affordable housing our top one.

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