June 23, 2022

Maryland Heights Residents

Crazy About Home & Real Estate

Paraplegic real estate agent tackles housing accessibility

8 min read

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — William Sweeney began hatching an plan almost 10 many years in the past right after waking up from a medically-induced coma and learning he was a paraplegic.

After various operations and months in rehabilitation, Sweeney desired a place to live that was wheelchair obtainable together with owning a degree entryway, huge doorways and retrofitted bathrooms with an accessible toilet and a roll-in shower.

“I went on probably 7 to 10 showings of diverse spots and not a single a single was functional,” he said.

“I feel the to start with aha second I experienced I recognized that this is just a unique perspective of dwelling,” Sweeney claimed. “I’m a curious man or woman, so I just preferred to find out extra and more from this standpoint. When you wake up and you had a existence-shifting, daily life-altering and existence-hardly ever-once again-will-be-the-very same type of instant, you can’t consider it, but you just can’t give up.”

Sweeney, who has been in actual estate considering that 2006, desired to produce a business enterprise to foster inclusive options for persons with disabilities and for an getting old populace that was developing. This tumble, he launched BoundaryLess Living, a Richmond-based mostly enterprise that he hopes will carry on to address the housing needs of people with adaptive desires and of aging adults.

The company’s to start with project was to intestine and rework a house at 1012 W. 49th St. in South Richmond, showcasing common design and style access for wheelchair users on the 1st floor. The home, presently up for sale, is part of designs to build two added houses in the similar region that also would have universal style and capabilities.

A universal style incorporates standard creating products and solutions or design and style attributes — this kind of as wider doorways, stepless entrances or lessen countertops — so that a household can be made use of by anyone no matter of their capability.


“We concentration on attributes designed to lessen or do away with bodily social barriers that keep persons from dwelling extended, safer and fuller in the neighborhoods and the communities that they want to live in,” Sweeney claimed. “Our intention is to bring individuals, corporations, organizations and collaborators collectively to establish a platform to keep important conversations that make certain that the people today with adaptive needs and getting older grownups are acknowledged and their excellent of daily life prioritized.”

Most households and neighborhoods were being by no means established up to respond to the needs of the disabled population, allow on your own the exponential growth of people who are 65 and older who want to are living at household as they age, he reported.

“Adaptive housing is just these types of a large issue of housing in typical. We just decided to choose a danger, construct a household, place it on the sector and see who buys it for how a great deal, and we’ll do two a lot more. And if it is effective, we’ll continue to keep undertaking it,” he stated.

“Our hope is that we can help aid more and a lot more housing and begin the dialogue to turn this scenario around and start obtaining solutions,” he claimed.

The require is real, reported Erica Sims, the executive director for technique and sustainability for HousingForward, a statewide cost-effective housing policy corporation.

“There’s an expanding need over time for all of our housing stock to be a lot more welcoming to the desires of seniors and for the desires of folks who are permanently disabled or disabled, irregardless of age,” Sims stated.

About 26% of Americans have some sort of incapacity, which include 18.6% of grownups ages 18 and around who have issue with mobility, according to the Facilities for Ailment Regulate and Avoidance.

And almost 1 million Virginians have at least one disability, like extra than 484,000 who have issues strolling or climbing stairs and about 335,000 who have problem living on their personal, she reported, citing 2018 Census Bureau info.

A few in five of Virginia’s infant boomers say they strategy to keep in their latest household soon after they retire, she mentioned. But the difficulty is that two out of five Virginia seniors are living in residences built before 1970.

Alison Clarke, the local community engagement supervisor at Sheltering Arms Institute, stated obtaining an obtainable property for a disabled human being or a senior can be expensive and challenging.

“I’ve worked in rehab for 30-moreover many years, so I know finding adaptive housing is really hard,” she explained. “What Bill (Sweeney) is attempting to do is to tap into a current market that is a escalating marketplace for all those people today who have to have guidance or getting capable to adapt to their dwelling types.”

Sweeney has realized a good deal firsthand about adaptive residing in the previous decade.

It begun when he went to get the job done on a Monday with some back pains. He was an avid runner and rock climber, so he assumed those pains were being a final result of performing exercises much too a great deal.

“I had a stroke in my backbone. It’s type of strange and it qualified prospects up into your brain so it is like being in each destinations. They figured it out and set me in a medically induced coma,” he mentioned. “When I received out of it, that’s when I had to figure out what my existence was likely to be likely ahead. It just devastates a household, specifically when anything like this comes about instantly.”

Sweeney, now 67, was one at the time he was attempting to locate a location to stay. He ended up on the to start with ground of his parents’ residence for the reason that ramps could be developed to get into the house.

His initially renovation of a fully adaptive residence was for himself, a pair of several years just after the stroke. He has given that renovated his existing house in the Westover Hills neighborhood. He also oversaw renovations of two other residences for customers.

“We get better and much better and discover far more and extra just about every time,” he said. “With this collaboration, we hope to deliver in so numerous other tips that we can share and be the resource and conduit to help folks live more time, fuller and safer lives.”

The dwelling at 1012 W. 49th St. — about a block south of Forest Hill Avenue around Westover Hills Boulevard — went on the sector this month. The asking selling price is $547,596. He bought the house a calendar year in the past for $231,000, according to metropolis on the internet home information.

“We have had showings but no provides still,” he claimed. “A large amount of what we’re hoping to do is how to existing it to the community to destigmatize getting older and dwelling with disabilities.”

The 2,200-square-foot property was gutted and then reconfigured to let someone in a wheelchair to be capable to reside there and entirely functionality. A garage was added to the rear, with a ramp into the property.

In the kitchen, the counter tops and cupboards were being lowered. The stove, oven and refrigerator had been strategically placed for ease and usability.

The master bedroom on the first ground has characteristics like pocket doors. The lavatory has a shower the place a particular person in a wheelchair could roll correct into.

“Some of these capabilities are just common design. Some of them are just because we know and we are living it and we just want far more residing activities,” he explained.

Work ought to get started next year on developing two households powering that household. People two-tale houses are in the layout stage.

The 1,950-sq.-foot house would entrance onto Clarence Road, whilst the 2,500-sq.-foot household would front on Herbert Avenue. The Richmond City Council just lately permitted a specific permit to enable the two new households to be constructed mainly on what had been the very same good deal as a property at 1012 W. 49th St.

BoundaryLess Living plans to construct the two houses with out very first securing a buyer.

Sweeney admits that is dangerous. But his decision to get into renovating the 1 household and placing it on the sector, and now organizing to create two added houses is dependent on his individual practical experience in not remaining in a position to purchase a completely adaptable residence.

“I made the decision we desired to do this and make them for a populace that demands housing and make it more simple for them to deal with the other issues of possibly aging or getting disabled,” claimed Sweeney, a true estate agent with Keller Williams Realty.

Creating new residences using common structure functions has been having location for a long time.

Substantially of it has took place when residential communities for persons 55 and more mature are made or when a disabled or older particular person would like a property built or renovated with people functions.

“Most contractors are doing it either in an age-controlled community or for an person owner and generally they are setting up probably not all (the adaptive functions) but some of the accommodations like stepless showers and issues like that,” Sweeney claimed.

Danna M. Markland, CEO of the Property Building Affiliation of Richmond, claimed builders have been earning lodging in residences though also designing entire communities to aid ageing in location.

“It just may not be marketed in an adaptive way,” Markland explained. “So several of people households in the 55-plus communities have zero entry and zero-entry showers wherever you can walk appropriate in or roll a wheelchair appropriate in. I think there is a good deal of that in the market. The detail about these households is they can advantage anyone, at any age, with disabilities.”

Remodeling corporations also invest a large amount of time retrofitting areas in properties for people with disabilities and seniors, she reported.

HousingForward’s Sims said possessing very affordable housing that is also adaptive is a massive concern.

People who have to have adaptive housing commonly earn 30% much less on average, she explained, and the poverty rate amid that group is bigger than normal.

Retrofitting a great deal of the Richmond region’s housing portfolio for adaptive housing “is very expensive” to do, Sims mentioned, mainly because the residences are so substantially more mature.

Sweeney reported he hopes BoundaryLess Living can evolve and be additional of a conduit for a assortment of firms, from builders and authentic estate developers to wellbeing treatment firms. The goal, he said, is to deliver businesses, businesses and collaborators collectively to make a platform to help tackle the often neglected and ignored troubles that getting old grownups and individuals with adaptive housing wants deal with.

“I never want to be a contractor any more time than I need to have to be. I’m not a developer. I’m not a contractor. I want to be able to deliver a approach and distribute it,” he claimed. “We’re working on creating some progress, but there is a lot more perform to accomplished. The possibilities are boundless.”

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