Habitat for Humanity building affordable housing for those with disabilities

Last year, Ottawa County registered 225 housing discrimination allegations. Of those, 119 were related to persons with a disability, according to Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity. 

The nonprofit has recognized that it needs to diversify its model of a two-story, single-family, three-bedroom, two-bath home, Development Director Dave Rozman says.
“There are lots of different populations who need affordable housing,” Rozman says. “You need options. It’s not a one-size-fits-all.”

At the end of October, the nonprofit broke ground on five townhomes that will be exclusively for those who have mental or physical disabilities.

First homeowner selected

The nonprofit has already selected the first future homeowner for Haven Townhomes, at 12761 Felch St. in Holland. Brittany Rabideau is a special education bus aide who has struggled to find affordable housing. 

“I became used to hearing ‘no’ when it came to accessing an affordable, safe housing option,” says Rabideau, 30.

Rabideau receives Social Security Disability payments. When apartment managers hear that, she says, many times, it’s like an immediate door slammed in her face.
Sometimes, she doesn’t meet the income requirements. Sometimes, it’s the stigma around disability that holds her back. “They wonder, ‘What’s wrong with you?’” she says.

Brittany Rabideau
“Just being able to partner with Lakeshore Habitat has given me hope,” Rabideau says. “I’m not couch surfing anymore — I won’t be wondering each year, ‘Where am I going to live?’ or ‘Are they going to re-evaluate my situation?’”

Habitat for Humanity saying “yes” to her has given her hope and stability, Rabideau says.

ADA compliant, affordable

All Habitat homes already have some “visitable” features, such as first-level bedrooms and wheelchair-accessible front doors, but these five single-level townhomes will be built specifically for individuals with disabilities, fully Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, and affordable for individuals as opposed to families. 

Haven Townhomes was named for Haven Christian Reformed Church, which previously owned the land. 

“We are continuing to find creative ways to partner with other organizations to find housing solutions for our community, and especially for those who are marginalized,” Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Don Wilkinson says.

Urgent need

The need for affordable housing is more urgent than ever. Lakeshore Habitat has fielded more than 400 interest forms this year.

Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity has numerous projects in the works at once. The nonprofit, which typically constructs homes using volunteer power, has partnered with GDK Construction to build the townhomes quickly. The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2023. 

GDK is working with its subcontractors to provide a better-than-fair-market rate for the build, Rozman says, and the build is being funded by a $375,000 Federal Home Loan Bank grant.

To find out if you are eligible for this or another Habitat home, visit lakeshorehabitat.org/own-a-home. To support Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity, visit lakeshorehabitat.org/ways-to-give.

This article is a part of the year-long series Disability Inclusion exploring the state of West Michigan’s growing disability community. The series is made possible through a partnership with Centers for Independent Living organizations across West Michigan.

Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.