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Finding the right housing options when a member of the family has a disability can be a thorny task, because of the number of factors a person must consider. But, striking the right balance of accessibility and affordability is easier if a person understands all of the public and private assistance programs.
What are housing programs?
Families that include a member with a disability are afforded some considerations during the process of seeking assistance. Also, individuals with disabilities are afforded broad rights to ensure that housing is accessible, and to protect applicants from housing discrimination.
Housing programs include:
- Housing counselors
- Public housing assistance
- Assistance for individuals with disabilities
These items are detailed below.
There are numerous housing options for individuals with disabilities, depending on their resources. To iron out the most appropriate options, an individual may want to schedule a meeting with a housing counselor.
Professional housing counselors work for governments and non-profits; they specialize in helping people determine what their needs are, what they can afford, and what resources might be available to make a house or apartment affordable.
When meeting with the counselor, it’s necessary to talk about all of the obstacles that stand in the way of securing a safe, clean home. Some of those reasons may be related to accessibility, but more often or not, it’s because of money.
Some of the issues a housing counselor will want to discuss include:
- Nature of a disability
- Accessibility options
- Transportation availability
- A buyer’s income and finances
- Eligibility for public funds (down payment assistance)
- Eligibility for public programs (project-based public housing or Section 8 )
- Homeowner and renter education
Housing counseling is designed to help individuals with disabilities, or families that include a member with disabilities, clarify their needs and shore up their resources. Counselors are aware of many resources that are not well-publicized in communities; therefore, scheduling an appointment is a good first step.
Public housing assistance
What is a housing subsidy?
A housing subsidy is an allotment that the government provides to a person or family that meets federal poverty guidelines, that is unable to attain, or pay for, housing with his or her resources. Housing subsidies can take a variety of forms, from rent in a government-owned structure and rental assistance through monthly subsidies, to down payment assistance offered by local governments.
The goal of all publicly-funded housing is to provide a safe haven for families with few options. Once a family is in a home or apartment, the heads of the household can then begin to sort through other quality of life issues. But without a place to live, all of the other tasks a person undertakes to secure their lives are seriously imperiled. Public housing assistance is not intended to be a permanent solution to a family’s financial distress, rather it is designed to be an immediate panacea that gives families time to build up their resources.
Assistance for individuals with disabilities
Sometimes, individuals with disabilities can take advantage of community-based non-profits or firms that assist individuals with disabilities in retaining housing. These groups most often help people buy homes using federal or state grants funds. Often, these organizations will retrofit homes so they are completely accessible, depending on a person’s needs. These groups, however, may not be able to help everyone who comes to them for assistance.
More viable options may exist in public housing programs that are not specifically designed for individuals with disabilities. Housing programs backed by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (Project-based public housing rental units or Section 8 rental units) abide by rule that dictates that wheelchair-accessible units must be included in all publicly-subsidized housing complexes.
As part of HUD’s Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards, or UFAS, accessible units must be offered to potential residents before they are offered to a would-be renter without disabilities. This is an advantage because there are typically thousands of people on a waiting list for only a handful of traditional publicly subsidized units. The authority is prohibited from passing over a family that includes a member with a disability and is first on a waiting list, but no accessible unit is available.
Also, individuals with disabilities may qualify for other help that is intended for people with low incomes, such as emergency housing, home buying assistance, or down payment assistance.
For more information on housing and rental assistance
Government assistance – also known as public assistance – is aid, service or supports that are provided to an individual by a government agency based on established criteria – income, disability, dependency or need, for example. Government resources come in the form of cash, food, services, shelter, technology, supports, and more.
- Cash Assistance: SSI, SSDI and TANF
- Child Care Assistance
- Education Assistance
- Employment Assistance
- Energy Assistance: LIHEAP, WAP and Others
- Health Care: Medicare
- Health Insurance: CHIP, Medicaid, and more
- Housing and Rental Assistance
- Nutrition Assistance: SNAP, WIC and more
- Safety and Protection