As you look through the newspaper for rental apartments, you note that there are many units available. But wait– you need a place with a no-step building approach. You need a unit with grab bars in the bathroom. You need a two-bedroom apartment with a roll-in shower. Did you find these features in the ads?
In spite of easing apartment vacancies, finding rental housing is not easy; if you need special features, things suddenly get more complicated. This is because there is an inadequate supply of accessible housing for people with disabilities in Minnesota. Principles of universal design are not consistently included in new construction, creating the need for expensive accessibility modifications and assistive devices.
HousingLink’s Housing Referral Service, developed with the assistance of the Fair Housing Implementation Council, helps eliminate barriers to finding that “needle in the haystack” accessible rental property. Through the Housing Referral Service you can get customized matches to accessible rental properties throughout the seven-county metro area. The referral process requires the completion of a questionnaire, then the service will match your particular housing needs to available vacancies, and, if no match is found, place you on a waiting list. The questionnaire, helps identify your preferences regarding location, housing type, bedroom size, income, acceptance of rental assistance, and pet allowance. Other features that may be included are: a no-step approach, automatic door openers, door-width clearance of at least 32”, roll-in showers, grab bars in bath, and easily operated door knobs or handles. Seniors can request referral to seniors-only buildings.
HousingLink gathers both vacancy and waiting list information for rental housing in the seven-county metro area. Vacancies in apartments, duplexes, town homes, single-family homes, and rooms-for-rent are listed. HousingLink also lists subsidized housing properties and alerts the renter to the need for a voucher. When HousingLink finds a match, a notice is mailed that includes features of the property and contact information. All vacancies and requests for rental property are entered into the HousingLink system quickly so the most up-to-date information is available. The HousingLink staff contacts property owners and managers frequently to ensure that the information provided is accurate and current.
The service is already beginning to pay off by increasing the options for people with accessibility needs. In December 2004, there were 213 listings with one or more accessible features noted. It is easy to register with this free service. In addition to all the other services they provide, the Disability Linkage Line can register both renters and rentees with the Housing Referral Service. The Disability Linkage Line can be accessed through their toll-free number at 1 (866) 333-2466 or at www.minnesotahelp.info. HousingLink provides information about the service on its website: www.housinglink.org.
Tips on Searching for Housing
1. You, as the prospective renter, are your own best advocate. The more effort you put into your search the more likely you will be successful. The Disability Linkage Line (DLL) is available to assist you. Please contact the DLL to sign up for the Housing Referral Service. The DLL staff can also help with any additional assistance you may need.
2. Confirm information with the housing manager. Even if a unit is listed as accessible, this does not necessarily mean it meets a particular standard. Ask the contact person specific questions about accessibility to make sure the property is accessible to you.
3. Get on as many waiting lists as possible to maximize your housing opportunities. The most persistent applicant will eventually get housing.
4. It may be necessary to make a second call if the contact person has changed or the site is in a different location than the main number. While additional calls may be frustrating, it is important to remember that persistence is necessary in order to succeed in today’s very competitive housing market.