Animated GIF. William Shatner as Captain Kirk screaming CANE in place of KHAN.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

On Housing

My name is Alisa. I’m 34 years old, I am disabled, and I own a condo outright. It is not accessible by any means, to the point that I can do neither my own laundry nor my own grocery shopping without assistance and I frequently stay in, because I live on the second floor of a walk-up.

I have a walker that I keep in the basement have to carry up and down seven steps. When coming home, I have to walk down those steps backwards, pulling my walker after me. I’ve so far fallen backwards three times while doing that, and I’m scared that I’m going to die slipping down when the steps are icy this winter.

I’ve fallen down the main stairs a couple of times. Earlier this year my knee buckled and I fell down a full flight head-first into a stone wall. I lay there calling for help for probably 20 minutes before someone found me and called an ambulance. It’s a miracle nothing broke, but I almost had to go into a nursing home to recover because my knee was so banged up. Instead I was stuck at home in bed for a month until I could put weight on my knee again.

Health-wise, I cannot afford to stay in my home. Financially, I cannot afford to move.

At this point, I have three choices: I can keep my home and rent it out while moving into a new home I rent or buy. I can sell my home and move into a rental. I can sell my home and move into a new home I’ve bought.

When social services such as Medicaid, Medicare, and food stamps take your economic status into account, your primary residence does not count as an asset. Whether it’s a shack in the woods or a three bedroom townhouse, its assessed value does not impact your level of services. The moment you acquire a second property, however, that counts as a financial asset and if it takes you over a certain threshold of net worth, you lose most or all of your benefits. So the option of keeping this place and renting it out while I live somewhere else is thrown out.

If, on the other hand, I sell this place and rent somewhere else, well… The money from selling this place would count as a cash asset the same as if I owned a second property, and once again services get cut. So the option of renting period is flat out.

With the option of renting being off the table, that means I can’t do Section 8 housing, because the cash from selling would take me over the financial threshold for eligibility.

Now we’ve got two new options. Sell this place and buy a new one. Sell this place and rent somewhere using that money, which would mean losing my benefits. I’d then have to pay all rent, food, and healthcare costs out of pocket from the sale of my house until I’ve completely bankrupted myself, then apply for Section 8.

So I’m looking at new places, and I’ve found one – and ONLY one – place that is relatively accessible (so long as I never need a wheelchair full-time), on the bus lines, and allows pets. My parents would have to help me financially in buying it, and then I’d have to find a way to pay the condo fee. I still haven’t been awarded my disability so I can’t guarantee how much I’d be able to contribute toward condo fees, and my parents can only help so much. At this point the Housing Authority isn’t even taking people to be on the waitlist to apply for a Voucher. My parents’ best suggestion so far? Get a job.

What the fuck do I do?

I would feel bad writing this as some long, self-serving whinge, but the truth of the matter is that there are probably thousands of people in the United States going through the exact same thing. State programs and Federal programs that aren’t compliant with each other. Too many people living in poverty. Not enough houses built to be accessible in the first place.

What the fuck do we do? Because we’d better start changing things. Do you want your kids to go through the same thing I am? If we don’t start making important changes to legislature and how we as a society think about the poor and disabled, chances are your kids will go through worse.

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