We Built the First Neuro-Inclusive Neighborhood in the United States.
In 2016, a group of parents in Saline, Michigan approached us about building housing for their I/DD adult children who were still living at home but had the potential to live independently in a home of their own with adequate support services. There were limited I/DD housing options in their community. At the time, the biggest question for these aging parents was “where will our I/DD loved one live and receive care when we are no longer able to take care of them in our home?” We responded by offering to do some research and develop some I/DD housing options for them. We were already familiar with their concerns because we had family members in the same situation.
During our research, we learned that I/DD housing is typically combined with caregiving services in a rental, “one-size fits all” format, and that there are long waiting lists for this type of housing because of limited supply and growing demand. We also learned that this type of I/DD housing is frequently impermanent and is not always located in integrated settings close to the I/DD adults’ family, friends, and local resources. In addition, we also learned that the development of I/DD rental housing usually requires public and charitable subsidies to be feasible and sustainable, and that those subsidies are scarce. The scarcity of funding for I/DD housing in the face of substantial unmet and growing demand across the country has created an acute shortage known as “The I/DD Housing Crisis.”
After conducting our research, we concluded that the very best housing option for the Saline parents would be to develop a privately-funded infill neighborhood called "Maple Oaks" in their hometown that included customized homes which could be purchased and owned by their I/DD loved ones as well as homes that could be purchased by the general public, also known as "neurotypical" homebuyers. The neighborhood would also include support services provided by a third-party caregiver and managed by a non-profit organization, the neighborhood’s homeowner association, and the families of the I/DD homeowners. We described the concept as a “neuro-inclusive neighborhood” that provides both I/DD and neurotypical adults with the potential benefits of homeownership, including permanence, equity build-up, and the sense of belonging that comes from living in your own home within an integrated, welcoming community.
The Saline parents and their I/DD loved ones embraced the concept and purchased 10 of the 34 homes in the new Maple Oaks neighborhood. The remaining 24 homes were purchased by neurotypical adults who welcomed having I/DD neighbors. The entire development was funded with private equity and construction loans from investors and a community bank; no public or charitable subsidies were required. In addition, all homes were pre-sold to mitigate development risk, including 18 before groundbreaking.
Groundbreaking to completion took five years, even with the delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and related labor and supply issues. News of the new neuro-inclusive neighborhood in Saline, Michigan spread during development, and soon groups of parents from Michigan and other states were visiting Maple Oaks and asking if we could build a neuro-inclusive neighborhood in their hometown. We formed Three Oaks Communities to meet this demand.
We are currently in the final stages of pre-development and accepting reservations from qualified applicants for our next new neuro-inclusive neighborhoods in Rochester Hills, MI. Construction is expected to begin in Fall 2023.