Claudia Swaney is a disability rights and housing justice advocate in Michigan. She has personally faced the impact of rising rents. As Claudia explains, “I have moved a lot due to high rents, and renovations have increased my rent from $185 to $205 this year alone. My voucher amount is still the same.”

Claudia has also experienced the challenges of inaccessible housing. She works hard to make sure that her home is safe, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Her home has “no grab bars in the bathroom and we seniors need them to grab on to them while bathing. We have to buy them or pay out $4,000 to replace the tub surround and leave our apartment while they do the work. The complex is contracted by MSHDA, our housing department in Michigan.”

Claudia has also witnessed the impact of racial discrimination in her community:

We also have a race discrimination problem in Rochester, Michigan. One poor boy was shot while trying to ask for directions to school. He was African American. We have many who moved out of our complex due to race. [Landlords] try to find a reason to evict them, even if it’s petty. And jack up the rent, too. They even evict families with kids. They let them in and then after a while they evict the family. 

Michigan faces a severe shortage of affordable housing for the lowest-income renters. According to NLIHC’s Gap report, there are only 36 affordable and available homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter households in Michigan. Claudia sees the real-world impact of these statistics:

Our going rents here are $800+ a month, but other places the rent goes for over $1,000 a month. They are building luxury apartments and condos, not low-income housing. Only one and it’s all metal and stairs. No complexes for the disabled. Senior apartments are rent high, too.

Nearly half of Michigan’s extremely low-income renter households are headed by seniors or people with disabilities, but there is not enough housing to meet their needs. As Claudia explains, “even senior apartments in assisted living areas are high rent also, and they build none here (in the Rochester area) that are for low-income seniors.” She notes that “getting home health care is hard, too,” which is especially important “so that seniors and those with disabilities can stay in their homes.”

Advocates like Claudia are pushing to make sure that homes are not only affordable, but also accessible, for communities with the greatest needs.