Housing Options for Individuals with Disabilities: A Discussion

 April 25, 2013
Posted by M&LAdmin4

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

In a letter to the President (dated January of 2010), John R. Vaughn, Chairperson of the National Council on Disability, wrote “Affordable, accessible, and appropriate housing is critical and integral to making a community more livable for people with disabilities.[i]” According to the report which accompanied the letter, titled The State of Housing in America in the 21st Century: A Disability Perspective, more than one third of households in 2007 reported having one or more persons with disabilities[ii]. The same document reports that “creating and sustaining safe, accessible, affordable and integrated housing [for persons with disabilities] continues to involve challenging and complex barriers that arise from the interaction of poverty, inaccessibility, funding rules related to acquiring supportive services, and a disability policy system rooted in the outmoded model of segregating people with disabilities from the community mainstream.[iii]

It is clear that access to affordable and appropriate housing is, and will continue to be, a serious issue for people with disabilities. Here at M&L Special Needs Planning, we feel that preparing for future housing needs and researching the different housing options available to individuals with disabilities is a vital part of the special needs planning process. In fact, planning for future housing needs is an integral part of our Comprehensive Special Needs Financial Life Plan service. As well, as a part of our commitment to providing high quality, special needs planning services, we are currently putting the finishing touches on our very own Housing Report. This report will provide users with information on housing and/or independent living programs that currently exist across the country, and will be launched on our website mid-2013.

In advance of this launch, however, we have prepared a discussion of the various options that individuals with disabilities and their families may consider when planning for future housing needs. These options include, but aren’t limited to, remaining at home, renting another location, purchasing a home, licensed facilities and/or group homes, adult foster care (as a part of family living), and  intentional communities.

Remaining at home: Individuals with disabilities may feel that remaining in their family home (or the home in which they spent their childhood) is the best possible housing option for their situation. In some cases, home renovations or additions may be completed to ensure the individual can live with the utmost autonomy – obtaining supported living services may be necessary. Examples of this may include a house which has been donated or left to the individual, an apartment in the family home or on the family property, or a granny flat on the property (can be referred to as elder care housing option or ECHO).  This choice has a number of benefits – the individual is familiar with the home and the community, and may have the opportunity to remain living in close contact with family members who have provided support and assistance in the past. Choosing to remain at home does come with its own set of drawbacks, however. It may not be an affordable option for those who do not have an apartment or a flat on the property, or there may not be enough space on the property for ECHO housing.

Renting another location: Those who value the privacy of maintaining a household but do not wish to remain in the family home or purchase a house may wish to consider renting – either alone or with others. Renting alone is optimal in terms of privacy and independence, but can be costly. For those moving from the family home, loneliness and a lack of in-home support may also be important factors to consider. In addition to this, finding an apartment which is accessible and appropriate may be difficult, depending on your location. Shared housing offers a cost effective choice, as well as built in companionship. For individuals wishing to rent a property, in-house supports, or supported living, may be necessary. In some cases, organizations in the special needs or disability communities may offer rental locations to individuals, and there are various government programs available to help subsidize housing costs. The Housing and Urban Development Department (www.hud.gov) is a valuable resource for individuals with disabilities who wish to pursue this option.

Purchasing a home: Some individuals who wish to maintain their own residence may purchase a home.  This can be a very expensive option, and would require the individual to be responsible for home maintenance and repairs. Shared housing is a possibility which would significantly lower home ownership costs – either the home owner rents space to other individuals, or a structured ownership plan is developed where two or more individuals purchase the home together. In this case, agreements are made with different outcomes in mind; i.e. to account for changes such as an owner choosing to pursue a different housing option, or death. In some cases, owners may form a corporation and purchase shares in the ownership of the home. There are a number of different funding programs and incentives that could combine to make this option viable for low income buyers, such as government funding programs to lower payments and first time homebuyer programs. However, if the individual chooses to pursue this option, funds must be acquired for the closing costs of the home, i.e. down payment, real estate fees, and legal fees. As with renting and staying in the family home, supported living arrangements may be required. Examples of this housing option include ownership by individual, tenants in common, or limited equity cooperative.

Licensed Facilities/Group homes: Licensed facilities/ groups homes must follow specific regulations and licensing requirements of their funding source. These regulations are directly related to the number of residents in the facility, as well as health and safety regulations. For most individuals, the biggest drawback to group homes and licensed facilities is the lack of privacy, and the lack of control over the workings of the facility, i.e. structure, staff, other residents, etc. On the positive side, these facilities have 24/7 professional staff, and offer security and stability to the individual and the individual’s family members. There are many opportunities for socialization, and companionship is not an issue. As well, all housing costs are included, i.e. there are no hidden costs or surprise expenditures.

Adult Foster Care, as a part of Family Living: In this situation, the individual would live in a home that is not their original family home. The owners of the home are responsible for the room, board, and care of the individual (as appropriate to the needs of the individual). The home may offer housing to one or more individuals with disabilities. As a part of their responsibility, the home owners may acquire supported living assistance, or respite care for the individual(s).  There are a number of positives associated with this option; living in a family home offers, of course, a home like setting for the individual. Additionally, this option can provide stability, which may lead to a permanency of relationships. Housing can be acquired more quickly with this option, and there are typically fewer numbers of residents in this setting than in a licensed facility or group home. Because it is a home setting, there are a number of considerations – conflicting personalities can lead to conflict in the home, therefore there must be an opportunity for all individuals involved to meet and express comfort with this living arrangement. As well, all individuals in the home must be educated and trained in relation to providing the individual with the level of care necessary to meet his or her needs. Examples of this type of housing option include domiciliary care or “dom care” providers.

Intentional Communities: “An intentional community is a group of people who have chosen to live together with a common purpose, working cooperatively to create a lifestyle that reflects their shared core values. The people may live together on a piece of rural land, in a suburban home, or in an urban neighborhood, and they may share a single residence or live in a cluster of dwellings.[iv]” There are four models of intentional housing – intergenerational communities as intervention, co-op housing, the farmstead, and housing collaborations with universities and colleges. Due to the complexity of the various models of intentional communities, next week’s blog will be devoted to an in-depth discussion of the details, benefits, and drawbacks of each model under this housing option.

When considering housing options for individuals with disabilities, it is important to remember that the housing needs of individuals are varied and personal; each person deserves to live comfortably, in a situation that suits his or her personality, needs, and medical conditions. If you have any questions regarding housing options for yourself, or your family member with special needs please contact us – we are more than happy to help! Also, if you would like to complete a Comprehensive Special Needs Financial Life Plan, in which we include planning for future housing needs, we would be more than happy to provide a consultation.

Thanks for dropping by our blog today, and stay tuned for the launch of our Housing Report in mid-2013. Have a great day!

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  1. |

    This is great information. Do you know if there are funding sources available to help defray the costs of these housing solutions or does everyone have to pay out of their own pockets?

    • specialneeds

      Families should always apply on behalf of their individual with special needs to their state’s Department of Disabilities (DDA).DDA will not pay for housing per se, but can provide services through the Medicaid Waiver. In addition, every state as a federally funded Community Parent Resource Center to help families with special needs obtain services, understand their rights and connect with local resources. To find the center in your state visit parentcenternetwork.org

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