Vermonters Tackle Accessible Housing Shortage

By Jolene Montgomery

TThere's usually not much sexy about adapting a home to accommodate someone's disabilities. So, I was intrigued to see this quote on www.wheelpad.com:

"We love it! We love it! We love it! Thank you for…facilitating my mom living more comfortably in our home! (and for promoting marital harmony!)"

I looked at the pictures. These aren't cookie-cutter add-ons, there is design and beauty as well as function. Someone put some thought and heart into this project! Hmmm… based in Vermont? I spoke with RJ Adler, Director of Growth at Wheel Pad, looking for more insight into these "energy efficient, accessible housing units that are available to help people quickly have more housing choices."

Tiny Accessible Homes: up against the Accessible Home Shortage

Scarcity of Accessible Housing Options Opens the Door for Wheel Pad

I wasn't expecting RJ to be so passionate and dynamic, committed to solving the Earth's housing shortage, one Wheel Pad at a time. Answering my questions about the origins of Wheel Pad, RJ explains that Julie Lineberger and Joseph Cincotta co-founded Wheel Pad in 2015 when their quadriplegic godson had to move to Portland to start a new job.

"They said, 'He'll just find an accessible rental how hard can it be?'" RJ tells me, describing the event that necessitated the birth of the Wheel Pad idea. "Nine months of him living in a hotel eventually led them to: 'How about a box you attach to your house?'"

From an attached box idea to the first models took only three years. The Original +Add Pad came out in 2018 and now Wheel Pad is on the 5th version, fine-tuned by customer feedback.

Prepping a tiny accessible home

Asked to describe the Wheel Pad, RJ gushes, "It's a universally accessible home attachment! It will rapidly make any property a safe and cozy place for people with mobility challenges. At the same time, it is just really beautiful extra space. It doesn't look any different, we designed it to look beautiful and cool."

Since Wheel Pads can be found all around the United States, I question RJ about how a unit gets to someone's yard.

"Our smallest solutions can actually be pulled behind a regular pickup truck. Once they get bigger, well, you know those trucks you see going down the highway that say, 'Wide Load'?" RJ replies, "That could be a Wheel Pad on there." As RJ describes the journey from concept to production to home, his voice rises in excitement.

Dynamic Housing Solutions for Disability Community and More

"It's a new kind of product, people don't often think about putting a house on wheels. The benefit of reuse for the planet and the benefit of resource conservation is amazing! I used to sell solar, and this is where solar was 15 years ago.

"I got into this business to help Vermonters with the housing shortage. My hope is that one day homeowners purchase a Wheel Pad not because they need it immediately, but because their kid's nanny will live there. Then when their kid comes home from college she can live there, and then when they are older and want to downsize, the homeowners can stay move into it. Or they can make a universally accessible rental. That's the whole idea—to give people options."

Building a tiny accessible home

There is no doubt in my mind that RJ is committed to changing the world and is attacking this problem first. He goes on to describe his journey from solar to housing.

"I was looking for the next step, thinking I'd have to create it, and I found Wheel Pad! Because Wheel Pad offers to buy back our units, it makes the banks feel more confident to loan the money, since they will get their investment back again. As much as it's about making a specific place for the individual who needs it, the idea is that buildings can be moved around and reused. We also lease them for people who only need them for a short period of time."

Wheel Pad's Abilities Expo Debut Happening Oct. 1-3

Wheel Pad will be at the NJ Expo, but the Wheel Pad is too big to put in the hall. How will people get the idea?

"We are going to have a tarp that has the floor plan so people can get the experience." RJ explains, his voice thrilling. "I'm so excited to talk to people about homes and design and how we can improve our communities! I'm so looking forward to the Expo to talk to more people. I'm prepared to give a whole lot of education. There are also funding sources that can make this possible for people!  So many choices…" RJ's voice trails off, seeing the options for the future.

Working on a tiny accessible home

Then he continues, seeing the dream become reality. "And if there are people who leave there saying, 'I'm not going to use Wheel Pad but I'm going to build universally accessibility into my home, that's still a win for us. To carry forward the message."

Wheel Pad will be in booth 735 at the Abilities Expo at the New Jersey Convention & Expo Center in Edison, NJ. You can also reach RJ at (802)458-7194, or rj@wheelpad.com.

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