How Disabled People Can Get Help With Housing

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on November 02, 2022
5 min read

Getting a house for disabled individuals is a big task, as homelessness could be a stark reality without appropriate and timely housing arrangements. The U.S. government takes many measures to provide adequate housing for disabled individuals. This article looks at the housing programs available for disabled individuals in the U.S. and how to access them.

Living as an active member of the community while retaining independence is one of the most sought-after goals for people with disabilities, their families, and supporters. Living in a home, either rented or owned, is a benchmark of independence for individuals with disabilities. But many people with disabilities in the U.S. — including those with developmental and intellectual disabilities —face a tough time when it comes to finding affordable homes.

According to data from the Annual Homeless Assessment Report, roughly 500,000 people, including single adults and heads of households who used homeless shelters in the last year, have reported some form of disability. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) run programs to fund families and individuals who face such situations. In addition, other state bodies give adequate support to their residents.

Several federal, state, and local housing programs give people with disabilities access to housing and offer other resources. Each program has a specific set of eligibility criteria and guidelines. Some of the housing resources for disabled adults include:

  • Restructuring an existing home to make it more comfortable for people with disabilities
  • Finding an affordable place to live
  • Supporting skill-building to live an independent life

When it comes to rental housing, people with disabilities are eligible for all government public housing programs. You can contact your state housing finance agency or your local public housing agency office to check whether you qualify for government programs to help with your monthly rent. These agencies can help you find a program based on your needs and also help you to apply for grants.

The HUD makes affordable housing available through the Supportive Housing for Persons With Disabilities (Section 811) program. This program funds building, subsidized rental housing, and supportive services for low-income adults with disabilities. Supportive services aim to give people with disabilities easy access to housing by proactively reaching out to sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons and families. The program also offers referrals to other housing and necessary services that people with disabilities may need.

The main objective of Section 811 is to help people with disabilities live an independent life within their community. Section 811 typically operates in two ways:

  • The first and more traditional way of functioning involves supporting nonprofit organizations by giving them government funding and capital subsidies that aid in their efforts to make affordable housing accessible to people with disabilities. This also involves planning housing projects for the section and building them.
  • The second way of operating involves giving necessary assistance to state housing agencies.

The capital advances are interest-free and help nonprofit organizations build housing projects that cater to the specific needs of people with disabilities. This includes building independent houses, condos, and group homes with supportive services for persons with disabilities. According to government policies, these nonprofit organizations don't have to repay the capital advance as long as the projects they fund remain available for people with disabilities for at least 40 years.

If you have a disability, you can apply for housing through your local public housing authority (PHA). Some of the supportive housing examples from the HUD include:

  • Privately owned houses are available for rent where the government pays the landlords directly so that they can offer subsidized rates.
  • Public housing programs, which offer rental housing for people with disabilities.
  • Voucher programs, where you can find a rental house and pay for the rent using vouchers provided by the government to pay a portion or all of the rent.

The HUD housing voucher programs are the most common method to get housing assistance. But keep in mind that the demand for vouchers and other types of housing support is huge, and you may have to wait to become eligible. In some cases, this process may take years.

There are two types of HUD vouchers:

  • Tenant-based vouchers. Individuals with disabilities can use these vouchers to continue to stay in the house where they currently live. You can inform your landlord that you’ll be using the voucher to pay the rent in part or in full. You can also use these vouchers if you wish to move to a different locality within the city or another state within the U.S. If the new building is yet to be certified, an officer from the HUD will inspect the premises to certify it so that you can start living there. An easy way to remember this is that the voucher “travels with the person".
  • Project-based vouchers. These vouchers are only eligible for the projects or housing units they're made for. Landlords of these projects typically have a contract with the state or federal government to rent these units to people with disabilities. Sometimes, this can be more useful, as you can easily access many related services close to your home.

If you have any complaints about subsidized housing, you can call the Multifamily Housing Complaint Line at 1-800-MULTI-70 (1-800-685-8470).

If you’re applying for the first time, you can approach an HUD-approved housing counseling agency to understand the best options. To be eligible to live in some properties, you may need a reference from a state agency. Your caseworker may be able to help you in this scenario. Your caseworker will explain to the manager how you qualify for the property (depending on the nature of the disability) to identify the best option that would benefit you.

The Administration for Community Living (ACL), a body under the HHS, plays an active role in funding several housing programs for the disabled. The ACL’s primary aim is to move disabled individuals from larger settings — usually institutional houses — into smaller houses.