HALF MOON BAY, CA (September 12, 2023). Read original article at LISC Stories.
Finding affordable housing in California amid the state’s shortage is challenging enough. For people with disabilities, especially those living on low incomes, there are even fewer options and yet more obstacles to navigate.
A group of parents without experience in real estate development saw a way to make a dent in San Francisco’s fraught affordable housing market, and with help from LISC, they’re creating a supportive mixed-use living community for up to 40 adults. The parent-driven nonprofit Big Wave Project received $12.5 million in construction financing from LISC Bay Area, in partnership with Capital Impact Partners, to bolster a housing project for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Half Moon Bay.
Big Wave Campus will welcome residents of all ability levels and ages to live in an environment designed to encourage social interaction, community engagement, and personal development tailored to individuals’ needs and interests. The initiative will also provide opportunities for social and educational enrichment, community engagement, and employment resource access. The organization plans to lease a commercial kitchen in the new building to the non-profit One Step Beyond, Inc. which will operate a culinary academy and catering company for Bay Area adults with disabilities.
The 50,000-square-foot two-story residence and 10,000-square-foot courtyard sits on 6.9 acres of donated land adjacent to the existing five-acre Big Wave Farm a hub for the Bay Area special needs community. It will offer a range of units from studios to three bedrooms subsidized for low-income renters and open to the public. Construction will start later this year and the project is slated to finish in late 2024.
LISC funds utilized from the Partnership for the Bay’s Future, an effort that allows LISC to provide larger loans with lower interest and more flexible terms, will help Big Wave complete the construction of the $30 million residence. The partnership is one of the country’s largest-ever private-sector housing funds, and is dedicated to investing at least $500 million in affordable housing in the Bay Area by the end of 2025.
“LISC was interested in supporting this project because of the unique nature of the housing that it's providing,” Sally Smyth, an underwriter for LISC Bay Area, said. “There's a real shortage of housing for adults with developmental disabilities in California and the project that the Big Wave families are putting together is unique. It also couldn't attract conventional bank financing. So there's important social impact from the project and also a need for CDFI dollars.”
The impetus to create a safe space for adults with special needs has been over two decades in the making for Big Wave founders Leslie Nordin and Jeff Peck, who have children and family members with disabilities.
“It’s well known that California has a dire housing shortage, but this crisis is even greater for vulnerable adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities – approximately 70,000 people in San Mateo County alone,” Nordin said. “Most of these adults live at home with family members, creating a crisis as their caregivers age and can no longer provide support and housing stability. That’s why over 20 years ago we founded the Big Wave Project – to provide lifelong housing and a sense of community for these adults.”
With diagnoses of autism and other disabilities on the rise in the United States, the need for housing like the Big Wave Campus is growing.
About 39 million people—currently live with a disability, and over 4 million live in California. When affordable housing is difficult to access, the odds of experiencing homelessness become more likely. People with disabilities experience poverty at a higher rate than people without disabilities, 25% in 2021. Just 6% of housing units in the US are accessible for those with mobility-related disabilities, and only 20% of accessible units are occupied by people with disabilities, according to a 2020 Apartment List study. With such limited adequate choices, living with a family member with a disability through adulthood becomes the default solution for many households, but doesn’t offer long-term security. Parents are left to worry about what will happen when they’re gone. “I want my vulnerable 34-year-old special-needs daughter to have a lifelong place to live when I’m no longer here,” Big Wave’s Peck said. “Like all adults, she wants to live in a community of her peers, where she is safe and yet has independence and the opportunity to thrive.” Big Wave is hoping to share its housing model and collaborate with other efforts to support adults with disabilities across the country. LISC’s Smyth sees the campus becoming a blueprint for other families trying to develop housing for their children. “It’s this really tight-knit community for a population that is usually relatively isolated,” Smyth said. “To see the families coming together and saying, ‘let's support each other’ and actually getting to the stage of building permanent housing is really inspiring.”