Unique Affordable Housing Challenges for Aging Adults and People with Disabilities
This week we explore affordable housing issues unique to aging adults and folks with disabilities. We talked with Jane Paccione, Director of Collective Impact at the San Antonio Area Foundation.
Her primary assignment at the foundation is managing the SALSA initiative (Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio) which helps over 40 community nonprofits work together to improve the quality of life for older adults in the San Antonio Area.
The below transcript has been lightly edited for clarity purposes.
Intro: Hey look, it’s the Doublewide Dudes.
Alberto Piña: All right. All right. Welcome back to the Doublewide Dudes. I’m joined today with our guest, Jane Paccione. Thanks for joining us.
Jane Paccione: Thanks for having me.
Alberto Piña: And for our listeners, Jane is another San Antonio success here. Jane was the director of the Collective Impact of San Antonio Area Foundation. Her primary assignment at the foundation is managing the SALSA initiative. Probably one of the coolest taglines I’ve heard there, but that stands for Successful Aging and Living in San Antonio, which helps over 40 community nonprofits work together to improve quality of life for older adults in the San Antonio area. And Jane received her undergraduate degree in sociology, as well as her graduate degree in public administration through the University of Texas, San Antonio. Go Road Runners!
Jane Paccione: Yeah.
Alberto Piña: And in the past, she served as the president CEO of Ride Connect Texas, a local nonprofit organization focused on boosting the independence of older adults through efficient mobility services. And additionally, she’s a San Antonio small business owner, another entrepreneur to the show, and her work through that company earned her a Texas governor’s entrepreneurship award. So welcome to the podcast, Jane.
Jane Paccione: Thanks for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
Alberto Piña: Yes ma’am. And this is your second one now, so you’re all pro, right?
Jane Paccione: Yeah. I’m a veteran.
Alberto Piña: Well, to kick us off, Jane, when we think about affordable housing, and a lot of times on this podcast, we’re talking and thinking through the problems that entry level, first time home buyer millennials and families that are just getting started are having, but there’s a lot more to the affordable housing problem than that, right? How hard is it for people with disabilities and aging adults to find affordable housing, and how big is that problem?
Jane Paccione: It’s a huge problem. Recent reports have shown that just 9% of households, US households have someone with a physical disability and are living in an accessible house, but we have over 15% that need accessible housing. So it’s a supply and demand issue for sure. So on top of affordability being the biggest issue, it doesn’t matter if I afford it, if I can’t access it, if there are steps or if there are other barriers for me living in that unit. And so for people with disabilities and older adults, it really is a huge problem.
Alberto Piña: I think when people think about that, the first thing that comes to mind are things like ramps instead of steps, but there’s a lot more to it than that in a house, right? You need doors wide enough to get through, you need space wide enough for turning radiuses. And even in restrooms, they have to be bigger and wider allowing for turning radiuses. And so there’s a significant cost at times to building accessible housing. Is that the primary reason why you think there’s not enough, or what do you think the reason is between the gap and the need and what’s out there?
Jane Paccione: I think it’s awareness. I don’t think it’s top of mind for accessibility, unless you need it. Unless you have someone in your family, you aren’t thinking about having an accessible home. You’re not about, hey, you and me are friends now. I’m going to come to your house. And I guess my question would be, can I come to your house? Do you have steps in your house right now? So we’ve just met each other and already I’m guessing, I think it’s a good guess, I couldn’t get into your home.
Alberto Piña: I’d say that’s fair. Yeah.
Jane Paccione: Okay. So it’s not just an accessibility thing, it also goes down to a social infrastructure thing that people with disabilities who need that mobility or accessibility in a home, or even if they want to visit a home in a community, it really does close down your options. So we’ve got accessibility, we’ve got affordability. We know that people with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty than someone who doesn’t have a disability. So all these things we’ve got to really think about. And I’m a barrier free housing girl. I’m like, well, why don’t we just build them like this? Why are we having waiting lists? Why can we not build our way out of this? Can’t we just build homes that are accessible no matter what age you are, no matter if a disability. And it’s not an if you get a disability, it’s when you get a disability. Shouldn’t we just be building homes that are all accessible so this is not one of those things that we have to think about?
I had a spinal cord injury in my teens and so that really did upset the apple cart with my family. So when I came back from the hospital, I was actually set up in the dining room because our home wasn’t accessible. It was another thing that me and my whole family had to think about and negotiate. My brother’s son, Jake, I’m English so he was playing rugby. About four months ago, he broke a hip. And so my brother lives in a up and down. And so it’s like he spends more time with his grandmother who does have my old bedroom still there in the dining room. So what I’m trying to say is, I think if we can just look at this a little differently and think about accessibility being at the foremost, what if you do get a friend that has a disability? This is Military City USA. We have over a hundred thousand vets. Shouldn’t we be just thinking, let’s just not have any more waiting list. Let’s not keep thinking accessibility. Let’s just think of it as the doors and the walls. You know what I mean?
It’s like, we need that, that’s how it goes. And so also when we think about accessibility and those zero entry ways, I’m not saying it’s all going to be that way. I’m saying one entry. It doesn’t matter if it’s through the garage, through the front door, through the back door, it doesn’t matter. One door that a person in a wheelchair, and I guess today we’re talking more mobility disabilities than anything. But one place where you know you can get a person through the door with an electric wheelchair or not, I mean, we’re only talking about 36 inch door, not huge. That that person can also use the facilities. So that’s another big thing. If you have an accessible a bathroom downstairs and it’s a two story, once you get someone in, you need for them to use the facilities as well, and that’s a challenge. It’s actually been a challenge for me because I’ve gone to people’s homes and found out this is not really going to work, and I can’t stay there that long.
Because the second I know I can’t get in there is the second I need to go, and that’s just how that goes down. So when we think about homes, I think we need to talk about two things. One, actually living in an accessible home and how good that feels if you need it or when you need it. And then the other side of this is visit-ability. Can a person visit your home? Because that really does increase our social infrastructure, all of us.
Alberto Piña: Yeah. That’s interesting. My grandma got to a point where she couldn’t get around her traditionally and she needed a wheelchair. And I think of all the stuff that my folks had to do to their house to… I mean, we still want her to come over and hang out and Thanksgiving holiday, the whole stuff. And it was a challenge to work around and fix that. But you’re right. I don’t think it’s something that top of mind until it has to be for most folks, right?
Jane Paccione: So that goes back to the question, why aren’t we doing it? Well, no one’s asking for it and then no one’s thinking, oh, five years from now, 10 years from now, 20, 30 years from now, when I want to age in place, can I age in place here? Does this make sense to me? Because the outside, you may know all your neighbors, you may have all of those really critical gems in the community; your library, your park. The social infrastructure is there, but yet you can’t navigate two or three rooms in your house. And then you have to move and what does that look like?
Alberto Piña: Right. Well, it’s interesting when you put in… All of us, it’s just a matter of time before we need something like that, right? Our whole team kind of makes fun of me, my knees crack like it’s nobody’s business. They all know when I’m coming.
Jane Paccione: You can hear it?
Alberto Piña: Oh yeah. It’s loud. And so all I have to say, it’s just a matter of time before my knees don’t want to work anymore, right? But it’s not something I’ve ever really thought about in my house until just now when we’re talking about it, right?
Jane Paccione: Yes. It’s top of mind. Right now, you’re thinking you’re going to go home tonight, you’re going to go, I can’t invite Jane over. Can’t do it. So it’s just bringing an awareness of what out there, being educated about it, but why aren’t we asking for all of our homes to be built universal design? Not just for someone like me, for someone like you. For all of us so that we can get away from these waiting lists, these chronic needs for housing. It’s very isolating and that’s the serious part of this. It’s very isolating when you can only fit in one room in your home or you can’t go out to the backyard to let your dog out because it’s not accessible to you anymore for whatever reason.
Alberto Piña: Yeah. And I’m thinking through the specs of, standard entry doors are typically 32 inches. We can go to 36 if we’re asked, but we’re talking a four inch difference between an accessible door and one that’s not.
Jane Paccione: No one’s asking because no one knows to ask. So it may be a few conversations about, hey, do you have anybody in your family with a disability we may need to… We have these universal design products that make your house actually more sellable, right? Because you can sit there and put in there zero entry, 32, 34 inch, 36 inch doors, whatever you wanted to. I personally think it’s a great sales move because you’re like, oh, universal design. Because if I see that on a house and think, I want to see it. And guess what? Just like when we were talking earlier about mobile homes, manufactured homes, I think that originally when people started thinking about accessible homes or accessibility, they were thinking of those big bars that looked very institutional. You know what I mean? Accessibility, wasn’t sexy. Now we’re in a place where you don’t even know it’s there. And if you lay concrete, right? If you do a concrete pad in a new home, that’s probably $0 to you to have that entry smoothed into a ramp versus steps.
It’s almost like, hello builders, people finding houses. Let’s talk about having this accessible entry somewhere in your home because, yes, hopefully nobody needs it now. But what if you sell this house and the person moving in does need it, or if someone in your family needs it at a later time, you’re already ready. You’re ready. Hey, mom, I’m ready. My house is ready for you to come into when you want to.
Alberto Piña: I’m pretty sure George and I and the creative team are going to steal your universal design because that just sounds awesome.
Jorge: Just push it down to us.
Jane Paccione: Universal design is where it’s at. It means that you and me, I can invite you to my house, you can invite me to yours. We’ve got these features and I think it’s a sales… We can promote these features. People don’t know it’s out there, they’re not asking. So I would be asking if I was selling homes. I’d be going, “Hey, is this going to be your forever home?” And if that person says yes, I’m going to go, “Oh, there’s a few things that we need to consider then.” So we need to make sure, and it’s not just about the bricks and mortar, but I’m talking about transportation also. As Americans, we live, and I could say that now because I’m an American citizen. Even though I don’t sound like it, I am. But Americans outlive their driving abilities by seven to 10 years. So if you’re wanting to stay in your forever home, what does that look like when you no longer drive, right? So what are your options then?
Where should you be in San Antonio if you’re no longer able to drive? And what if you are a person with a disability and you need to do VIAtrans. You have to be within three quarters of a mile of a bus route. That’s another thing that will play into where you select your house. And then what if you want it or need it to be accessible on top of that? So I see accessible housing being like unicorns. It’s very hard to find and when you do, you don’t want to move.
Alberto Piña: What are some of the key factors that makes it more of a challenge for people with disabilities or aging adults to secure the stable, affordable housing? It sounds like from what you just explained, there just isn’t enough supply or hardly any supply at all. I mean, it truly is unicorns, it just doesn’t exist?
Jane Paccione: Yeah. That’s what I’m saying.
Alberto Piña: I mean, just basic economics, if there’s the demand clearly there and the supply doesn’t exist, why do you think builders aren’t just lining up to fill this gap?
Jane Paccione: I have no idea. I think it’s an educational thing. I think that as our aging population is coming, I don’t even think older adults often sit down and go, I am going to plan to aging place. At SALSA, we have a work group and they’re the AIP, Aging in Place work group. And they’ve come up with a presentation that they’re taking on the road to help people and organizations think about aging in place. Think about their home or if they need to change their home, right? How would they navigate that as they age? Or a disability comes, how would they think about the transportation? What modifications in the house if they need that, what’s the social infrastructure like? So what if I want to age in place longer in that house? And I’m really into the additional dwelling units (ADU). I think those are totally awesome because what if I have a three bedroom home, I have enough space for an ADU in the back. What if we say all ADUs have to be accessible.
Yeah. You can get a permit for it, but let’s have them all accessible, right? Can you imagine we would be building accessible units all over the place. I mean, to me that’s like, yes, we can do that. I’m into house sharing too. I think house sharing is another thing that can extend someone’s life in a home. One of the people over at SALSA had a really good experience doing this with an older woman. The lady that was doing it was maybe in her forties at the time and she was sharing a home with a lady in her eighties. It changed her life. It was one of those things. So as we’re thinking about being creative about staying in our homes as long as we can, as safely as we can, what are those things we can do to do that? Can we house share? Can we do modifications? Can we build an ADU in the back? What are the things that we could be creative about to expand that time?
Alberto Piña: Yeah. And I think the beauty about ADUs and what you’re talking, that’s almost always going to be new construction. And when it’s brand new, if you’re thinking about this at the time-
Jane Paccione: I know. Let’s just get on that bandwagon and say no. All of them have to be accessible.
Alberto Piña: Universal housing.
Jane Paccione: Universal housing. This is what I’m talking about, where we’re taking the thought out of this so if it’s not top of mind, we are reacting later, right? So we’re always reacting and there’s going to be these… I mean, people with disabilities, we want to blend in, not stick out. We want exactly what you want. And I was thinking, we’d like to be different, but we’re not. We’re exactly wanting the same thing. I tried on three pairs of pants this morning before coming here. It didn’t fit. I’m sure there were other women that have had the same issue when they have to go somewhere and they go, wow, these aren’t fitting. So what I’m trying to say is we’re not different. We want exactly the same things. We want to live in the community as long as we can live there, as safely as we can live there with as little support as needed basically. And how do we do that? Before I was in housing, I was really in transportation and I thought, oh, this is a big mess.
I mean, affordability is bad for anybody, but when you put accessibility needs on top of that, you’ve really got such a chronic issue that needs to be addressed.
Alberto Piña: Right. Yeah. And I think you hit the three kind of main points right on the head. It’s the house itself. You got to be able to get around, get in, the access to transportation. And then that community is, we can’t build this on an island by itself. I think back to my nana, right before she passed up until the last few months, they had this van that’d go pick her and all her friends up and bingo or whatever it was at the center at the church, and she just lived for that. And that community and being around her friends and without that van driving around to pick them all up just would’ve never happened.
Jane Paccione: Exactly. Yes.
Alberto Piña: That community is such a huge part of aging in place because not everyone is going to have family members around, and we’re social beings, right?
Jane Paccione: We definitely need to keep and build our social infrastructure. My Gosh. It’s as powerful as walls, right? We need to keep that because that will really help us age in place and age more healthily. I mean, your grand, your nan, she lasted as long as she did because she was having great structure, friendships and capacity to go out and do these things.
Alberto Piña: 100%. I think a lot of times when folks think about aging in place or some of the struggles they may or may not be facing, a lot of times, there’s this misconception that, well, they’ve already paid their house off. What bills do they have? And from a financial standpoint, what are some of the things that make it unaffordable for our older adults to age in place?
Jane Paccione: Well, many older adults are in fixed incomes. And by the time we get to that place where we’re not having income coming into the house and then you think about modifications and they may be big depending on where you live. So a ramp can be extremely expensive. But if we had done that at the beginning when the house was built, we wouldn’t have an issue, right? Because the concrete would’ve taken care of that. Home modifications, the bathroom modifications, kitchen modifications. I mean, these are big ticket items right there. So they really do need planning ahead of time to be able to adjust to the need that you have at that time. So it’s about fixed incomes, it’s about incentives, possibly, it’s about bandwidth. It’s pretty hard to work with contractors sometimes on some of these issues. And so finding a contractor that you trust that can do the jobs you need him to do, not being aware of all the… I’ve been in a wheelchair for a few decades here and I’m shocked when someone says, oh, well, I’ve got this.
I’m like, well, I didn’t get that memo. Didn’t know it was available. It was a great idea. I would love to get that piece or this table goes up and down. Whoa, I hadn’t heard of that. So they don’t actually know what’s out there so they’re struggling in their homes not knowing or not having access to these different things that are actually making society better. I mean, technology has helped older adults and people with disabilities greatly and how do we leverage that to stay in our homes longer? How do we get the, when we can no longer reach the thermostat because it’s too high. I mean, it’s not the big things that bother you, it’s those little things that you’re like, whoa, I wish that wasn’t there. I wish I didn’t have a doorknob, I needed a lever to open the door because of arthritis, or I wish we didn’t have that step that went down into our whatever, because I can’t get out there now. You know what I mean?
So just really thinking about cost and how does this get funding. That’s why we need more home modification assistance out there.
Alberto Piña: I’ve seen a number of nonprofits and programs that aid in home modification for our veterans with disabilities. Is there similar programs that are helping with this modification?
Jane Paccione: Yeah. We’ve got many. I mean, the city of San Antonio’s doing a great job. They’ve just increased their housing modification assistance fund that they have there. But Merced Housing is a SALSA partner and they do great stuff, great work in home modifications. And certifications that you can get from the builders’ association. I think it’s called CAPS, Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist. So you can actually get people who are trained to look at certain things in your homes and say, okay, wow, hey, we could do this over here or we can do that. But it really is about understanding or knowing where they are. So again, there are different people and different home modelers, builders’ association, different places that have these certifications, whether it be universal design, whether it be aging in place. These are all things that then come in, sort of look around and help you with.
Alberto Piña: That is so cool. I’ve been in construction almost half my life and I ever knew such a thing existed.
Jane Paccione: I am so glad we’re having this conversation.
Alberto Piña: Absolutely. Me too. We talked briefly about transportation in isolation, but beyond friends, these folks still need to eat, they need medical care. Are these things that compound this issue into where there’s only so many pockets where you have to try to find a house if you need some sort of accessibility?
Jane Paccione: Yeah. I mean, it can be a very challenging time to age in place. I would say it’s aging’s so cool, everyone’s doing it, right? So it’s so cool, we’re all doing it. Let’s go back to disability a second. The disability community is the largest minority in the United States, right? So we’ve got to think about how do we make these adjustments. I’m not sure I’ve actually answered your question yet, right?
Alberto Piña: That’s alright. Let’s keep going. I like where it’s going.
Jane Paccione: How do we make sure that we have good, solid, safe housing for people with disabilities and older adults? It’s universal design, it’s barrier free housing, and we can pay upfront or we can pay at the back. We’re paying it somewhere along here and it’s more costly when we have to do you those renovations. I mean, you know what it’s like to go through renovations in a home, right?
Alberto Piña: Oh yeah.
Jane Paccione: Can you imagine if it’s those big ones? You know what I mean? Those big renovations where you’re like ripping a kitchen out or a hallway has to move because now this person can’t get down there. And I had to have my house built because there weren’t any options for me. I found no options that would work. And so I can honestly say, yes, you can get around my house in a manual wheelchair, but I actually have friends with electric wheelchairs and it’s not so fun. So you really have to think a big picture of how does this work? How can we just get to universal design? How do you as a builder sit there and go… All of our homes, this is my challenge to you and builders out there. How do we get this universal design platform and just say, this house will work for you now, mother with two kids. This house will work for you when you’re 80 or 90. You’ll be able to live in this house as long as you are able to.
And then hopefully by then, we will have the social infrastructure there to support you doing this. So how do we get to that instead of us having conversations about accessability and affordability 10 years from now?
Alberto Piña: Right. Yeah. That’s interesting because you’re right. We’re all going to age, right?
Jane Paccione: It’s cool.
Alberto Piña: It’s inevitable. It’s so cool, everybody’s doing it. I like that. And some of the stuff now that you’ve got me thinking that way, it’s just not that much more expensive to do at the beginning. It really isn’t.
Jane Paccione: I’ve done research. It’s not that hard at the beginning, but after it gets a lot harder. And you know that we have a very old housing stock here in San Antonio, so trying to make something accessible. I mean, if I was to go try and buy a house now, right? Well, it’s going to be a single story. Oh, check that box. But navigating it, it’s going to be a challenge unless someone, that unicorn’s out there that they actually said, this is a universally designed home. You can age in this for as long as you like to. And universal design doesn’t mean thick bars everywhere. It’s not like that anymore. Universal design can be sexy.
Alberto Piña: I love that. When I think about the parts of town and the communities that have all those things, the access to medical and food and community, especially here in San Antonio, a lot of those homes, they’re from the fifties and the forties. And I don’t think this was on anybody’s mind back then so I don’t imagine a lot of those homes are built that way. So surely the solution’s not knocking them all down and starting from scratch, but within our community specifically, what is San Antonio doing that others can model to tackle this in our community?
Jane Paccione: We have a visit-ability ordinance here in San Antonio, and we’re actually doing a position paper at SALSA to see if we can get that sort of revved up and have more elements in there so that we can have homes, all new builds, all new builds, not just publicly funded, but all new builds have to have this one entry doors wide enough. If they have a bathroom downstairs, that it be accessible, right? And a few other elements. But I’m just saying at a basis that we build homes from now on that have that visit-ability. You might not be able to live there, but you’d definitely a visit there, right? I think we can do that. I think we should offer incentives for house modifications. I think that’s what we can do too. I mean, incentives to do that and incentivize builders, offer these items, make it top of mind, make it part of the discussion in the sales process that, hey, is this going to be your forever home? People buying this in their sixties and you’re like, yeah. Hey, here’s a few other things you might want to consider.
I mean, I would think just do it all the way through. I mean, you’re a woman with kids, you’re a person who likes to bike. There is a report I read a long time ago, the curb cut effect, was really those curb cuts were for people with disabilities, but everybody benefits and I guess that’s what universal housing is about. That you and I get to be friends and you don’t go, uh-oh, I can’t invite Jane. You know what I mean? And that awkwardness. But it’s just like, yeah, come on by. It’s done. This is one of those social issues that we can actually get rid of and I think we should try and do that.
Alberto Piña: Yeah. A hundred percent agree. And after pushing four kids on strollers, I know my family certainly benefited from curb cuts, all around. One of the things that you’ve talked about is how we choose our words. And we were discussing that before the podcast to make sure we were choosing our words carefully, right? Why are words and how we frame the conversation so important when it comes to affordable housing, aging in place or people with disabilities?
Jane Paccione: Words are very important. And we know through social science research, some of those words are better than others. So at the Area Foundation at SALSA, I lead an initiative called reframing aging. And we now have 15 trained reframing aging facilitators who are on this long term social endeavor to change the public’s understanding of aging because when we think of aging, and this is just not me, this is social science research saying this. When the public was asked, they either see aging as earned leisure, time with the grandkids, that type of thing. But right over here, dependency, frailty and not good things, right? But there’s a lot of living going on between those two pieces that people are not connected to that it’s not top of mind for them. And that sort of gets in the way of us making good public policy. So we need to reframe how we talk about aging so that our older adults can be more engaged in the communities, so that we can have a level playing field and we can know that good ideas have no age limit, right?
Because what we’ve done here in society and community is discount older adults’ contributions. And so we know we need to reframe that. And they did lots of research around words like senior, elderly and older adult. And when the public was asked in this study, it was over 12,000 people, which when they felt was more competent, they put layers like technology and whatever, they firmly sat on older adult. Older adult is the best term to use. And it’s so funny because when I think of reframing aging, I really do think about disability too, right? So we know that we used to use the word, I’m going to cringe, cripple to talk about people with disabilities. And then it went to handicap. We’re like, wow, that’s connected to golf. That’s not going to work. Then we moved to disability. And then when we were at disability, we moved onto person with a disability and made it, it’s better, it’s more inclusive, it’s stronger.
And I was laughing when I was talking to Jorge about parking and things. I had gone down to the San Antonio library and I asked for, and this was maybe about a decade ago, disabled parking. And this young woman said to me, “Ma’am, that’s accessible parking now.” And I said, “Wow. I didn’t get that memo.” I said, “I think that’s great.” And from that point, I started calling it accessible parking. It’s an accessible restroom, accessible parking because it’s a better term, it’s a more inclusive term. And I’m just so thankful for this young woman, but that was a decade ago and I bet you didn’t get that memo.
Alberto Piña: I didn’t.
Jane Paccione: Right. I’m a member of the group. I didn’t even get a toaster or a memo when I joined the disability community. So I’m like, wow, those words take so long to change and get to where it’s good language and a good narrative. So you’ve learned new words. You’re going to be using all older people, older adults, you’re going to be using people with disabilities, you’re going to be using accessible parking, accessible restroom. You’re going to be using all these words just to keep up with what’s the best practice right now.
Alberto Piña: Yeah. And universal housing. Can’t forget that one.
Jane Paccione: Universal housing.
Alberto Piña: Yeah. There’s absolutely power in words. And some of the conversations I’ve learned the most from are from folks that were 40, 50 years older than me. And just like you said, good ideas do not have an age limit, right? A good portion of our audience is millennials, they’re young. They’re not even thinking about the possibility of needing to think about any of this in the short term. For them and just anybody, it sounds like this is a universal concern or should be, but for them at that stage of their life, why is this something you think they should be thinking through and why is that a concern for everybody in the community?
Jane Paccione: Well, I think it’s not who’s right, it’s what’s right. We live in a community. We should all be looking out for each other. And I think when it comes to disability, this largest minority group, you can join anytime. I mean, that’s the one group you can join anytime. So we need to be forward thinking, we need to be inclusive. And I think younger people can lead that. They can lead that and we need for them to lead that. And we need them to ask for, it’s not just people with disabilities that need… We all can benefit from accessible housing and they need to get on this movement and this bandwagon and say, yes, because don’t know what the future holds for any one of us and we hope it’s a long, healthy life, but I had my spinal cord injury when I was 16 and so the dynamics in our family changed immediately. So we don’t know when things are going to be happening like that.
And I think my mom would’ve preferred to focus on me and getting me out of the hospital versus focused on, I can’t bring Jane home because we don’t have a house for her to be in. So I just think it’s forward thinking. Instead of us being reactive, it’s being proactive. And as a society, we know when something isn’t working and this has not been. Housing has been an issue for people with disabilities and older adults for decades and it’s something that we can take care of. And I think the city of San Antonio is doing a great job, getting its housing policy framework out there. And they’ve got some strategies for older adults and people with disabilities because as a community, this is what our community members deserve.
Alberto Piña: Yeah. And I tend to agree. Society and community just as a whole is better when everybody can come to the party.
Jane Paccione: And I think when we get away from “othering,” those people, that over there, it’s us, just know that it’s us, we’re better for it.
Alberto Piña: Yeah. There’s so many things I’m thinking of now as a builder that we have never thought of to be perfectly honest, but they’re so small for us to change, but they could make a massive difference.
Jane Paccione: Right. In someone’s life, they can be life changing so why aren’t we doing that is because I don’t know what the barriers have been and I don’t want to say who’s to blame. I’m just saying, if we’ve got an idea here and we can sit there and go, we can build 100% universally designed homes for everybody, that’s how it is. Just sell universal homes, universally designed homes, barrier free homes. And then let’s get rid of these waiting lists for housing, especially for accessible housing because truly they’re like unicorns. I mean, it’s hard, so we need to do better and we can.
Alberto Piña: And I’ll speak for Braustin. I know we can and this has me think of so many things. We need to go back to the drawing book and just take a look at it, right? I imagine there are going to be other builders or just other people in general that this conversation we’re having is eye opening for them as well and gets them thinking a certain kind of way. How can folks learn more or get involved in some of the things you’re helping with or just the solution in general?
Jane Paccione: Well, you can get ahold of me over at the Area Foundation. I’m happy to talk to anybody about universal design barrier free housing. Also, disABILITYsa is an organization here in San Antonio that’s doing great work. And I serve on their board right now and if you are a person with a disability or you want to know more about disabilities, Melanie over there is doing great work. Merced Housing, if you need supportive housing, Kristen over there and her group are doing great work. There are many people in San Antonio, and that’s the wonderful thing. We have so many great nonprofits doing amazing work and I get to work with 40 plus of them and I’m just so happy. And you know, you’re sitting around, we’ve got so many gems here in San Antonio and Collective Impact, that’s the framework of how I work, right? The framework is called Collective Impact. And people are like, what’s that?
And it’s like taking all of these wonderful gems that we have in the nonprofit sector, but also for profit and government, right? And bring them together and saying, hey, we want to go there. What’s that common goal? And us all agreeing, that’s how we’re going to get there. That’s that systems level change because we’re all doing great work in silos, but it means you, builder, going to another builder saying, hey, I think we should be doing this. And let’s bring more people on so that we have a community at San Antonio where people with disabilities and older adults want to live, work, play and learn. And let’s make San Antonio, because we have great weather here, let’s make San Antonio that place where people with disabilities want to do those things; live, work, play, learn here and thrive.
Alberto Piña: I love it. I love it. Well, I have learned so much in our conversation, and thank you for coming down and sharing this all with us.
Jane Paccione: Thank you so much for having me. I totally enjoyed it. Thank you so much.
Alberto Piña: Yes ma’am. Well, we’ll be sure to include all the links that Jane mentioned in the show notes. And as always, thank y’all for tuning in and we’ll catch you on the next one.
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