Micaela Connery

Alumni

Problem

1 in 5 Americans have a disability. Despite spending over $30 billion dollars annually in the United States on educating children with disabilities to live independent and included lives, those opportunities too often don’t exist in adulthood. The primary barrier to independence and inclusion: housing.
People with disabilities are more likely to be poor and priced out of most rental housing, even many affordable units. They are at higher risk of homelessness, making up 40% of the homeless population nationally. They face greater rates of housing discrimination and specific challenges related to accessibility, isolation, and lack of community supports.

Many of the over 50 million adults disabilities struggle to find affordable housing and a home where they feel part of the community. While institutions close, new residential options aren’t often available. Housing offerings are severely limited, with lotteries for few precious public units or unmanageably expensive private developments. Most current models lack true inclusion and access to community. Many people live with their parents well into adulthood, parents who are aging and worrying where their child will live after they die.

People with disabilities want to live included in their community. We know communities are better when all people, of all abilities and backgrounds, are welcomed.

Pathway

The Kelsey is the result of three years of extensive research on housing for people with disabilities in the United States and abroad. We address three critical shortcomings in disability housing: a lack of inclusion, a lack of sustainable financing, and a lack of scale.

Our approach is built on inclusion, partnership, sustainability, and scale. Each development we work towards is fully inclusive, serving people of different abilities and incomes. We create partnerships between public, private, and social organizations who are integral to disability housing development and operations. Once developed, our residences are sustained through cross-subsidies and earned income. We are committed to scale and systems change, designing a model that can be replicated and open-sourcing learning and best-practices to other organizations working to meet this critical national challenge.

Our mission is to create thriving, inclusive, urban residences where individuals live, play, and serve communities together. We envision a future where — in cities across the country — inclusive housing is the norm, neighbors feel connected, all people have access to housing, and diversity is a valued asset. The Kelsey has three blocks that build towards that mission: Building Communities; Partnering for Impact; and Changing Systems.

In Building Communities, the Kelsey develops housing that is fully inclusive of people with and without disabilities. This process includes: predevelopment planning to understand the community, identify a site, and engage funders; development work with a housing developer; and building operations including supporting community with our signature Inclusion Concierge.

Partnering for Impact works alongside disability, housing, and community organizations that seek to develop inclusive multifamily housing in communities across the country. There are over 25,000 organizations in the United States working in disability services or housing. New parent and advocate organizations are continually forming to address disability housing challenges within communities. They know there is a growing problem and a need for new solutions, but they often don’t know what to do about it or don’t have the capacity to implement solutions on their own. The Kelsey can help.

As an organization committed to broad systems change and scalable solutions, we also recognize government as an important partner. Changing Systems focuses on the work The Kelsey does to help cities, government agencies, and policymakers better address disability housing challenges. This includes advocacy, advising, publishing, convening, open-sourcing best-practices, and direct project partnerships.

Person

Inspired by her cousin Kelsey, Micaela has been working in disability services since she was fifteen. She is an award-winning social entrepreneur, published writer on inclusion, and international speaker on social impact.

Her work at The Kelsey is inspired by Kelsey, Jer, Katie, Liz, Danny, Jodi, Georgia, Jackson, Michael, and so many other people with disabilities in her life. But, it’s also selfish. Micaela wants to live in an inclusive community herself — her research has led her to believe many other people with and without disabilities, particularly millennials, feel the same. She believes, like Kelsey’s favorite sign “More!”, that communities achieve more and mean more when all people are included.

Micaela completed her MPP at Harvard Kennedy School focusing on housing, disability inclusion, and community development. She then continued on to complete her MBA at the University College Dublin Smurfit School as a Mitchell Scholar. She is the Founder of Unified Theater, an organization fostering inclusion in over a hundred schools across the country through the arts. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia.