The legislators and advocates are reconsidering the restrictive destination laws around additional dwellings or clean flats, which say the relaxation would be a game changer for older adults or residents with disabilities.
“This is the biggest crisis for adults with disabilities, the lack of affordable housing,” State Representative Christine Barber, D-Somerville, has introduced legislation aimed at addressing this issue.
Speaking at the Joint Housing Committee hearing on Wednesday, Barber added that “this population is often excluded from discussions on housing production.”
Barber said her bill would only apply to families with senior citizens or community members with disabilities, and that it would set up a special needs trust for the disabled so that an owner could draw up a long-term housing plan for the fact that after their death deceased is their child to stay there, ”she said.
State Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, has submitted a similar version of the bill to the Senate.
Catherine Boyle, president of Autism Housing Pathways, estimated that by 2025, more than 17,000 18- to 37-year-olds with autism and no mental retardation could benefit from ADUs.
Gyasi Burks-Abbott, a fellow member of the Massachusetts Development Development Disabilities Council who was diagnosed with autism as an adult, said he supports initiatives like this because he lived semi-independently across the street from his mother in Los Angeles.
“I was able to live an independent life without being left completely alone,” he said. While attending social skills workshops and receiving additional support services, he received help with cooking, cleaning, shopping and paying bills.
“The thing that kept me going the most was that my mother was close by to help me deal with the help I got from other places,” he said.
State Rep. Kevin Honan, D-Boston, has introduced a bill that goes even further, eliminating the requirement that someone be an older adult or a resident with a disability to live in an ADU.
“The aim here is to add additional affordable housing units to the Commonwealth,” he said, calling ADUs an ‘easy’ solution to the housing crisis.
A 2019 study conducted by the Pioneer Institute found that only 37 out of 100 of the communities closest to Boston allow ADUs to be rented. Another 31 municipalities provide temporary ADUs for family members or caregivers. The remaining 32 communities do not have zoning grants for ADUs at all.