Suitable housing is one of the most important factors for independent living for persons with special needs. It can also be one of the most expensive, both in terms of capital investment and annual costs. Use a business approach to carefully plan for your child’s future well beyond your own lifetime.
The government options are less than ideal, so you should determine what family resources can be available to achieve housing goals for your special needs child. Make sure to allocate sufficient resources to long-term housing needs of your child, and to implement the appropriate legal remedies to fulfill your goals for your child into adulthood.
The objectives are clear but the reality is difficult to achieve. “A home of one’s own — either rented or owned — is the cornerstone of independence for people with disabilities. However, across the nation, people with developmental and related disabilities face a severe crisis in the availability of community-based safe, affordable and accessible housing.” (The Arc)
Private ownership options:
Entity choices. It is highly recommended to establish third-party trusts dedicated specifically to the purchase and operation of the residence. Another excellent option is establishing a limited liability company to own and manage the residence for your child. Both options allow you to control the property for the benefit of your child while you are able to do so, and to hand off management to other responsible persons as trustees or managing members to take care of the property when you die. These options also protect the property and your child from creditors and from the loss of benefits, but they have to be set up right and continuously maintained properly by you and your lawyer.
Capital and operating expenses. Want a surprise: take your household budget and extend it 40 years beyond your own life expectancy. Whether or not your child’s condition shortens lifespan, your child is likely to survive you. In addition to normal maintenance, you must budget for short term and long term capital improvements: furnaces and air conditioners, roofs, exterior and interior painting, plumbing and electrical upgrades, windows and doors, in addition to any extraordinary improvements to accommodate your child’s needs. This is a business proposition, you must treat it like one.
The family home. Starting with the family home makes a lot of sense — your child is familiar with it and the neighborhood. Consider whether and how it can be used for the next 50 to 80 years.
Purchasing a home and investing in the future. Consider buying a duplex or fourplex. This option would provide rental and investment growth, and give your child independence and security without living in a segregated group home setting. Many people also start their own group home business with their child as the first resident. Rentals from the other residents will assure your child continued residence and care.
Public rental options:
There are four major limitations with the Federal government housing programs. First, there are not many housing units available. Second, they are based on income guidelines. Third, they do not specifically include modifications that might be needed for physical impediments. Most problematic, they certainly do not address the social needs of your child. Federal programs will include “public housing” which is usually multi-family buildings, Section 8 housing subsidies that can be used for single family or multi-family housing, and the newer Housing Trust Fund enacted in 2008.
There are specific programs available for persons with disabilities, but they may not always be in the preferred setting. For example, “Section 811 Housing” specifically supports the construction and development of rental housing for very low-income and low-income persons with
disabilities, but is most common in segregated rather than integrated environments: the residents are not being mainstreamed into society.
Standards and best practices. “If people with disabilities are to become valued members of every community, we must pursue community development strategies that enable them to live and interact with others who do not experience disability, poverty, or other ‘special’ conditions or circumstances. We must assure that implementation of public policy does not inadvertently lead to further concentration of poverty.” (The Arc Michigan)
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