Housing Definitions

Housing for individuals with special needs is a constantly evolving and shifting medium; programs come and go, and new housing concepts are constantly being implemented, as old housing concepts fade from use. We have compiled a brief list of some of the more general housing definitions and concepts below.

Remaining in the Family Home

Individuals with disabilities may choose to remain living in the family home, or in a home with relatives. For many individuals with disabilities, this living situation may be the best possible housing option. In fact, research has shown that a large percentage of adults with disabilities remain living at home with their family members as they age into adulthood.

Licensed Facilities

Licensed facilities are housing facilities that must comply with specific licensing requirements – these requirements relate to the number of residents living in the facility, the levels of services provided, and health and safety regulations and standards.


The definition of an “institution” continues to evolve. For the purposes of this document, however, an institution will be defined in the traditional sense, that is a large, state-run, hospital style setting in which individuals can receive 24 hour monitoring, and onsite nursing and medical treatments and services, if necessary. It should be noted that the process of deinstitutionalization nationwide means that more and more adults with disabilities are being absorbed into community living arrangements, and states are closing many, if not all of their institutional facilities.

Adult Foster Care

Under this setting, a person with disabilities lives with a family that is not his or her family of origin. The individual lives as a part of the family, however, and the household is responsible for providing room, board, and care that is necessary to the needs of the individual(s). This type of setting may have more than one individual with disabilities living there (the number of residents and types of disabilities vary and are based on state regulations), but it typically has fewer residents than a group home or licensed facility. Adult foster care providers are reimbursed for their services through state agencies, and/or Medicaid, and an individual’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments may also be used to support this service. Adult Foster Care providers may also acquire additional supported living supports and respite care providers for the individuals living in their home.

Intentional Communities

Intentional Communities are communities in which people live together, whether in a house, a complex, or on a block or neighborhood, and share a commitment to a certain belief system or way of life. Some communities are specifically established to provide a shared commitment to caring for people with disabilities.

Independent Living

Individuals who wish to maintain a private residence but are unable to remain in the family home often turn to renting, leasing, or purchasing their own property/home. Often, shared housing (more than one resident sharing housing expenses) is acquired for this type of housing situation, and supported living arrangements may be made for the individual(s) living in the home.