My name is Alex Gargarita. I’m not a professional lobbyist or policy wonk – just an autism parent and advocate for people with developmental disabilities. This is how I realized my voice matters and so does yours.
The state of California requires its cities to develop a Housing Element plan that addresses long-term housing, including housing for people with disabilities. My city was one of the few in Silicon Valley without a plan in place.
In January 2015, I spoke in front of my city’s council chambers to voice the need for housing specifically for people like my son, Nicholas. In February 2015, the city passed legislation to adopt a new Housing Element plan, with a specific focus on people with developmental disabilities. Now, folks like him who live in our city will have a fair chance at local housing in the future, and still be near their families, instead of having to move elsewhere.
Your voice, just like Alex’s voice, is important. Local leaders need to hear from local constituents in order to understand that there is a housing and support crisis for people with special needs. For decades, the Technical Assistance Collaborative has been tracking housing affordability for people with disabilities in their Priced Out reports. They offer the following information in a useful guide for advocates:
There are four significant federally required housing and homeless plans in every community that you can influence. They may have different names, but they serve similar functions:
- Consolidated Plan: the “master plan” for affordable housing in local communities and states.
- Qualified Allocation Plan: outlines the state’s affordable housing priorities for the use of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. Most states engage in a public comment process before submitting the QAP to the Governor for approval.
- Continuum of Care: documentation of a community’s strategy for addressing homelessness
- Public Housing Agency Plan: the local PHA’s overall mission for serving low-income and very low-income families and the activities that will be undertaken to meet the housing needs of these families.
These federally mandated plans impact how billions of dollars of federal housing funding can be used to expand affordable and accessible housing opportunities for people with disabilities. Do not delay! Figure out when and where your voice can be heard to influence these important plans. Speak up! Share the unique challenges that people with intellectual/developmental disabilities face beyond accessibility challenges of others with sensory or physical disabilities. Share your expertise! Whether you are a project-starter or not, tell the four aforementioned committees that you want to be part of the solution to this crisis.
About Alex Gargarita:
Alex Gargarita is a technology marketeer based in Silicon Valley, and a single father of a teenage son on the autistic spectrum. He is a graduate of Santa Clara University with a B.S.E.E., and his career has spanned the semiconductor, software, and storage industries. Through self-education and relentless leverage of available resources, he has helped his son develop independent living skills to make a successful transition into adulthood, and has represented his local autism community by becoming involved at the local and state government levels.