Understanding Home Buying and Home Ownership When You Are Disabled

The general U.S. adult population knows that locating housing can be a demanding process, whatever the circumstances may be. For disabled individuals, finding healthy, affordable, safe living arrangements is a greater challenge, especially when resources are hard to find. Here are some housing resources for disabled persons that can hopefully help you meet your housing and lifestyle needs.

KNOW YOUR HOUSING RIGHTS

Individuals with disabilities are no strangers to adversity or discrimination. But, by knowing your housing rights and protections, you can make the best choices for your lifestyle needs. Here are some equal housing protections to get familiar with.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the Federal agency created to address America’s housing needs. They are charged with improving and developing the Nation’s communities, and enforcing fair housing laws. HUD’s mission is to create a decent home and suitable living environment for all Americans. HUD has given America’s communities a strong national voice at the Cabinet-level. They underwrite homeownership for lower- and moderate-income families through its mortgage insurance programs.

Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act alongside the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) protects individuals from discrimination by housing providers. This means creditors, landlords, mortgage and real estate lenders, and other entities cannot dismiss housing needs based on:

  • Race/color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Familial or marital status
  • If they receive income from public assistance programs
  • Disability*

*Defined as an individual having a mental or physical impairment that limits one or more living activities. Conditions or illnesses that are included are provided in the legislation.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 helps to prevent intentional and unintentional disability discrimination. This applies to any program or company that receives federal financial assistance. In this context, the wording “program or activity” can be defined as “… an entire corporation, partnership, or other private organization, or an entire sole proprietorship which is principally engaged in the business of providing education, health care, housing, social services, or parks and recreation.”

RESEARCH HOMEBUYING PROGRAMS AND LOAN OPTIONS

There are several options for housing and rental assistance programs that individuals with disabilities can access. First, there are government resources run by HUD. These include Section 811, Tenant Based Rent Assistance, and HOPE IV (more info under Resources below). Another option is the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which helps provide single-family homes, townhouses, or apartments to individuals or families.

The USDA loan programs offer a zero-down mortgage for qualified disabled borrowers to buy a home, specifically in rural areas. If you are interested in this option, look at income eligibility, credit requirements, and your existing debt ratio.

Alternatively, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers mortgage insurance by an approved FHA lender. Not only are these specifically designed for low-to-moderate-income borrowers, but this option extends to individuals with disability income– both SSDI and private disability income.

For disabled veterans, there are resources that support both the physical and mental needs of veterans and their caregivers.

LOOK AT RESOURCES FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING (AT HOME)

Assisted living facilities are an option, most people prefer to stay in their homes for as long as possible. If planning to stay in your home, consider resources and improvement projects that can allow you to keep your independence. For example, look at in-home care services and nurses. If you are an older individual (60+) with a disability, the Older American Act can provide home services like

  • meals-on-wheels/nutrition programs
  • in-home services
  • transportation
  • caregiver support

In addition, home modifications can be done to accommodate medical equipment or devices like wheelchairs. Consider modifications to avoid potential risks, like

  • falling up or down staircases
  • tripping on exposed cords or wires
  • burning or injuring yourself with inaccessible kitchen appliances

If you do not have funds readily available, consider accessing loans and grants that can help you do so.

Reverse mortgage

Another option is to use a reverse mortgage. A Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM) is designed for seniors. It can be used to convert the equity in your home into monthly income or lines of credit, helping you cover home improvement or modification costs. To be eligible for a reverse mortgage, you must be 62 years of age or older, own the home outright, or have a small loan balance that can be paid with the proceeds of the HECM loan. For as long as you live in your home, you don’t pay this amount back. Instead, you repay the loan when you leave or sell your home. This amount will depend on the age of the youngest borrower or non-borrowing spouse; the interest rate; other loan fees; and the lesser of the appraised value of the home or FHA’s mortgage limit for your geographic area.

Housing grants for veterans

Veterans with a service-related disability are eligible for a Specially Adapted Housing Grant, which offers more than $100,000 to individuals. This can be used towards modifying a home, or building a new primary residence. When house hunting, be sure to consider indoor and outdoor adaptability features to potentially use in negotiation with the sellers.

USE YOUR HOME TO HELP PAY MEDICAL EXPENSES

With high costs of healthcare, making ends meet for individuals with disabilities and their families can be an ongoing struggle. Fortunately, your home can help you cover these outgoing costs easier than you may think.

One option is to refinance your mortgage. This can help you pay off your existing mortgage, and take out a new mortgage on your own terms. These can give you the choice to

  • opt for an adjustable-rate mortgage rather than a fixed-rate mortgage, or
  • take advantage of lower interest rates

A second option is to utilize FHA loans. Even if you have financial difficulties, such as bankruptcy, you can apply for loans from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). You might qualify even with a lower credit score and still be eligible for this option compared to conventional morgages. And, a third option is to use a home equity line of credit (HELOC). Although a HELOC is secured by your home, like a personal loan it can be used, for instance, to pay off medical expenses. Typically, you can borrow up to 85% of your home’s equity and pay off the debt over an extended period (usually around 20 years).

Regardless of your housing or lifestyle needs, you have a right to equal and fair housing programs and support. Keeping yourself informed about how your rights are protected and what options are available will help you make the best choices, whatever you decide. Homebuying and owning is a lot of work, but it’s good to know there are housing resources for disabled persons available.

Resources

Affordable Housing: How Aging Seniors Can Navigate Uncertainty

SECTION 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities

Discrimination Against Disabled Students in Higher Learning

National Disabilities Rights Network

Housing Choice Voucher Program

Veteran Disability Benefits

Learn How To Get Preapproved For a Mortgage

Advocacy Groups for People with Disabilities

Home Investment Partnership Program (Tenant Based Rental Assistance)

HOPE For Elderly Independence (HOPE IV)

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