A Chattanooga, TN, woman can’t find housing. It is complicated because she uses a wheelchair. Taryn Balwinski lives in an apartment that doesn’t meet her needs. She has trouble using the sink and other appliances.
For disabled Tennesseans, finding accessible homes has always been a challenge. According to the real estate website Zillow, Tennessee’s housing market experienced price gains of 25.8% last year, the second fastest increase in the US, behind only Florida.
In addition, Habitat for Humanity’s Jens Christensen says the organization has seen a 30% increase in construction costs. Increased labor and land costs make it challenging to find developers willing to build accessible homes.
Finding accessible housing is a nationwide problem. It is particularly severe in Tennessee. Last year, The Tennessee Disability Coalition gave the state a “D+” on its Tennessee Disability Scorecard for working individuals with disabilities. Unfortunately, nearly 85% of counties in Tennessee were unaffordable for working disabled people.
Martie Lafferty, who works for the state’s housing commission, says there is little oversight of accessible housing. The Fair Housing Act requires housing built using federal funds to have at least 5% of its units accessible. Furthermore, as of this year, Tennessee has no funding to assist developers in building accessible housing.
Disabled people in Tennessee often rely on charities to find accessible housing. Taryn Balwinski’s application to Habitat For Humanity was approved last year. Balwinski was thrilled when construction began. The home features wide doorways, accessible appliances, and a ramp to access her front door.
More accessible housing is needed nationwide. Disabled people shouldn’t be forced to live in inaccessible homes. Accessible housing is just one way disabled people can be more independent.
Pentilde, Sam. “Tennessee Residents Attest to State’s ‘d+’ Grade for Supporting Adults with Disabilities.” WTVC, WTVC, 8 Nov. 2022, https://newschannel9.com/news/local/tennessee-residents-attest-to-states-d-grade-for-supporting-adults-with-disabilities.
Peña, Sam. “’It’s Terrifying:’ Tennessee Families with Disabilities Locked out of Affordable Homes.” WTVC, Sinclair Broadcast Group, 1 Feb. 2023, https://newschannel9.com/news/local/its-terrifying-tennessee-families-with-disabilities-locked-out-of-affordable-homes-housing-market-accessibility-construction-disabled-wheelchairs.
Torres, Madalyn. “Tennessee Disability Coalition: Tennessee Receives ‘D+’ on Disability Scorecard.” WBIR, NBC, 7 Nov. 2022, https://www.wbir.com/article/news/state/tennessee-disability-knoxville-knox-county-nashville-state-scorecard/51-eda4469e-98f3-4be7-a9e7-13f6974139a6.