Trying to Move
Finding accessible housing in the rental market is near impossible; finding accessible housing for purchase is even worse. I have resided in a first-floor apartment in Southwest Denver for the last seven years since my spinal cord injury in 2014. Luckily, being on the first floor, there are no stairs to manipulate, just a few raised transitions over doorways easily ramped for power wheelchair access. At move-in, it was necessary to adapt my master bathroom, which entailed removing the shower doors and installing a simple shower pan to provide roll-in access with my shower chair. This small project costs out of pocket $9,000, and an additional $9,000 out of pocket will be required to reinstate the original condition of the bathroom upon move out. This total of $18,000 represents an astronomical number for a small, minor bathroom accommodation for my basic function of bathing. In addition to adapting the bathroom and installing small transitional ramps in doorways, all carpet was removed for my power wheelchair to traverse through the apartment rooms on a laminate floor. Paying out of pocket for this carpet replacement will also be required at move out, an additional cost on top of an already lengthy bill.
My three-bedroom, two-bath apartment originally cost $1,800 a month in November 2014, plus the usual additional utility costs. As of October 2022, my monthly rental payment is now $3,300; it has nearly doubled a mere seven years later. My rent has become more than most people’s mortgages. Further, I live alone, and I am on limited financial resources.
It’s time to move.
Buying a home in the Denver metro market has become near impossible, especially worse for those in wheelchairs as our population has specific needs. Finding a home that has little to no stairs, an attached garage that accommodates a wheelchair van, no carpet, modified bathroom space, hallways large enough for wheelchair manipulation, easy access in and out of the front door are just a few items on a long list of basic requirements for ease of living in a home. In addition, having a small backyard space accessible via a dog door is crucial for my existence. My service animal “Shadow” needs to be able to let himself in and out of my home since I live alone and cannot open the door for him when he needs to excuse himself to the potty. This can be very challenging and trying during snowy months as I am unable to independently traverse the outside sidewalks during inclement weather.
As I have watched my rental payment increase month by month, year after year, I started to look on various websites to see what was out there for purchase if the day ever arose for my time to exit renting. Sites like Zillow.com and Redfin.com have been a daily check-in, and over the last couple of years, I have viewed online hundreds of apartments, townhomes and homes within this area. You would think after years of looking, there would be a plethora of options. Yet, the unfortunate reality is that over the hundreds of locations I have viewed, only a handful have seemed potentially reasonable. And almost all those options would require up to $50,000 of additional work to adapt and make the home accessible for my needs. The situation is dire not only here in Denver but across the country to find accessible housing options.
With inventory low and a huge influx of buyers in the Denver metro market, buying a home has become more of a dream rather than a reality. My realtor and close family member, who has worked in the area buying and selling houses for over 40 years, continues to encourage me, telling me, “We’ll find something, don’t worry, EB.” Yet each month goes by, and no home reveals itself. The summer and spring months are when homes are hot. The search simmers down during the fall and winter months, and the inventory is lower than ever, with most homes being sold as major fixer-uppers. These are projects that neither myself nor my family wishes to take on.
So as the leaves fall off the trees and I begin to hunker down for the cold winter months, it appears that I will continue to pay big rent money through the winter until next spring when the inventory returns to its boisterous levels. The search will then begin again. In the meantime, I am practicing being present in the moment and enjoying my last few months here in my apartment complex. I realize that the grass is always greener on the other side, and with that, I have come to realize that this little apartment has done me well during a time of major transition in my life. I have found independence here, learned so much about myself and my capacity to exist as a survivor of a spinal cord injury and see this space as a launchpad for the next stage of my life.
Being a Yogi at heart, I do believe in manifestation and the power of positive thinking so, I will continue to imagine this beautiful little cottage home that I have imprinted in my brain as my next place of living in the hopes that maybe I might get lucky. A place I can finally call home, a place where I can modify as needed, a place that is completely adapted to mine and Shadow’s needs.