Members of the bipartisan New Jersey Legislative Disability Caucus today joined members of the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey, and intellectual and developmental disabilities advocates to discuss housing accessibility for individuals in the I/DD community.
Members of the NJ Legislative Disability Caucus today joined members of the Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Supportive Housing Association, and intellectual and developmental disabilities advocates to discuss housing accessibility for individuals in the I/DD community. (©iStock)
“The need for safe, affordable housing options for residents with disabilities far exceeds the supply, and the housing shortage will continue to grow if we fail to effectively address the issue,” said Senator Anthony M. Bucco (R-Morris). “The exchange during the virtual roundtable will help the caucus devise an effective strategy, including potential legislative solutions, to ensure more vulnerable residents have a roof over their heads and a safe place to call home. We all share responsibility for the state’s special needs community.”
New Jersey ranks #35 in the country in terms of livability for residents with disabilities, according to the website Policygenius. Lack of affordable housing for the I/DD community was one of the primary factors for the low rating.
“For individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, finding housing that is both accessible and affordable is a very real challenge,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland), Chair of the Disability Caucus. “New Jersey’s housing throughout the state must be accessible to all residents. Ramps, elevators, braille, accessible signage and other necessary tools should be readily available for any individual. The Disability Caucus’ roundtables with advocacy groups and community advocates allow for us to better understand the work that needs to be done in the state legislature to best support those in the I/DD community.”
“Our Disability Caucus roundtable meetings foster insightful and meaningful conversations. The lack of housing accessibility for individuals in the I/DD community is a very real issue in our state. Housing should not be a privilege solely for able-bodied, neurotypical individuals, it should be a right for everyone,” said Senator Bob Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “The best way to properly address this deficit is to hear directly from community leaders and advocates, and that has and always will be the objective of our caucus.”
The New Jersey Legislative Disability Caucus is a bipartisan forum within the state legislature for lawmakers and their staff to consider the impact on the disability community when shaping all public policies in the Garden State. People with disabilities, their families, and organizations that support and advocate for people with disabilities in New Jersey serve as a resource to the Caucus, providing education and programming as needed.
“The lack of accessible housing is a pressing issue for many New Jerseyans, but especially those in the I/DD community. That is why I sponsored legislation, which was recently signed into law, to create a dedicated source of funding for the Special Needs Housing Trust Fund,” said Senator Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), chair of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee. “Today’s conversation provided valuable insight into what more needs to be done to ensure adequate housing for this community and I am grateful to all those who took the time to share their experiences.”
This was the third meeting of the Disability Caucus. The first roundtable on January 26 focused on COVID-19’s impact on individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD). The second, on April 27 discussed employment opportunities for individuals with I/DD. New Jersey is among just a handful of states that have formed a Disability Caucus within its state legislature.
“Members of the New Jersey Disability Caucus were excited to focus on affordable housing at the Legislative Disability Caucus,” said Mercedes Witowsky, executive director, New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities. “Affordable, Accessible and Available housing resources and supports are critical to meeting the needs of one in four New Jersey residents who identify as having a disability. Individuals with disabilities, their families and those who support them remain grateful for the bipartisan Legislative Disability Caucus members who participate in these critical discussions.”
“SHA applauds the State Legislature for their recent investments in housing and supports for people with disabilities,” said Diane Riley, Executive Director of the Supportive Housing Association of NJ. “This focused conversation will build upon this success to pave the way for better access, additional options, and streamlined coordination that will make it easier for all people to participate in the life of their community.”
Senators Patrick J. Diegnan, Vin Gopal, Fred Madden, M. Teresa Ruiz, Joseph Vitale, Thomas Kean, Declan O’Scanlon, and Kristin Corrado are also members of the caucus.
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