A housing development aimed at giving those with developmental and intellectual disabilities a better chance for employment and independent living is in the works for Hillsboro and possibly Greenfield, according to Larry Gray, operations director for the Highland County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
Gray told The Times-Gazette on Tuesday that the development is still in the planning stages at this point, with organizers currently searching for locations to build two separate housing units.
“Basically, we’re trying to develop homes for individuals in need of different living arrangements,” he said. “We’re just trying to develop some more independent living models where three or four people can live under the same roof. We have to meet all the zoning laws and everything else, and the city has been good working with us. We’re just making sure we find the right site to build in town.”
The board of DD has joined forces with Highland County Community Action to build the homes, Gray said, and when all is said and done, Community Action will own and manage the buildings.
Gray said many Highland County residents with developmental and intellectual disabilities are spread throughout the county, and generally don’t live independently. The idea behind the housing initiative is to integrate those people into larger communities where they have a better chance at getting employment and living a more self-sufficient lifestyle, Gray said.
“The development is more to keep individuals out in the community,” he said.
Gray said the board is also looking at building in Greenfield and possibly Lynchburg in the next year or so.
The development is already fully funded through a combination of state and federal funds, according to Gray, and will not require any extra tax dollars.
“This is a model that would be one of the very first ones in the state,” he said.
Gray said there will be enough money to not only make the homes high quality, but to make them blend with the community in which they’re built.
“They’re going to be pretty nice houses,” he said, “and they’ll be built to the design of whatever community we put them in.”
According to Gray, the buildings will look like one large home, but have four small apartments inside, and residents will pay rent.
“That really creates a lot of inclusion,” he said.
Gray said the homes may have a live-in healthcare provider if any of the residents need one.
Organizers are currently considering locations on South Elm Street and North West Street, although members of the Hillsboro Planning Commission voiced concern about both locations in an April meeting.
According to the meeting’s minutes, planning commission member Joe Mahan said deed restrictions on the South Elm Street lot may prevent them from using the lot in question. Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings said during the meeting the lot on North West Street is favorable for commercial development, and asked the board of DD to consider an alternate site.
According to the minutes, Tom Eichinger said the group should consider properties that become available through the city’s blight abatement program, although Gray said during the meeting the seller of the North West Street lot is motivated to sell to the group.
Interim safety and service director Gary Silcott said during a Monday meeting of the planning commission that he will look into what type of zoning other cities have used in similar cases.
The board will discuss it further at its June meeting.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.