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Information about housing laws, design and technical advice for people with disabilities, public housing and housing assistance.

1. How to Find Housing

1.1. Funding a Home Purchase

Homeownership Voucher Program: This program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development allows people with disabilities to become homeowners through a monthly voucher program. Once approved, vouchers can be used for the mortgage principal and interest, mortgage insurance, real estate taxes and homeowner insurance, and for allowed utilities, routine maintenance costs, and major repairs and replacements.

Participants must be first-time homeowners and not have owned a residence for three years. The home must pass an inspection by the housing authority and an independent home inspector. Individual public housing authorities may or may not offer the program, but they are required to if it's a reasonable accommodation for somebody with a disability. The waiting list for this program varies, so expect a wait after you submit your application. Contact your local housing authority for complete eligibility guidelines and income requirements.

Section 203(k) Insurance Program: This program by the Federal Housing Administration allows homebuyers to finance long-term both the purchase of a home and the cost of its rehabilitation through a single mortgage, or to finance the rehabilitation of an existing home. Rehabilitation costs must be over $5,000, but the total value of the property must remain within the FHA mortgage limit for your area. For more information call 800/225-5342.

Fannie Mae's Community HomeChoice Program: This nation-wide program helps low to moderate income people with disabilities afford homes. Qualified borrowers are offered low down payments, loans with lower debt-to-income requirements and more lenient credit evaluations. For more information visit

State agencies: Some states offer assistance programs for disabled first-time homebuyers that often feature low-interest loans or below-market interest loans. Searching the Web for your state name plus the term "home buyer assistance" will turn up useful links and contact info.

United Spinal e-news article by Mark Boatman

December 2015

1.2. Public Housing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

HUD's Public Housing Program

Public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single family houses to highrise apartments for elderly families. There are approximately 1.2 million households living in public housing units, managed by some 3,300 HAs. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers Federal aid to local housing agencies (HAs) that manage the housing for low-income residents at rents they can afford. HUD furnishes technical and professional assistance in planning, developing and managing these developments.

Public housing is limited to low-income families and individuals. An HA determines your eligibility based on: 1) annual gross income; 2) whether you qualify as elderly, a person with a disability, or as a family; and 3) U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status. If you are eligible, the HA will check your references to make sure you and your family will be good tenants. HAs will deny admission to any applicant whose habits and practices may be expected to have a detrimental effect on other tenants or on the project's environment.

HAs use income limits developed by HUD. HUD sets the lower income limits at 80% and very low income limits at 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which you choose to live. Income limits vary from area to area so you may be eligible at one HA but not at another. The HA serving your community can provide you with the income levels for your area and family size, or you can also find the income limits here on the internet.

If you are interested in applying for public housing, contact your local HA. If you have trouble contacting the HA, contact the local HUD Field Office.

The application must be written. Either you or the HA representative will fill it out. An HA usually needs to collect the following information to determine eligibility:

(1) Names of all persons who would be living in the unit, their sex, date of birth, and relationship to the family head;

(2) Your present address and telephone number;

(3) Family characteristics (e.g., veteran) or circumstances (e.g., living in substandard housing) that might qualify the family for tenant selection preferences;

(4) Names and addresses of your current and previous landlords for information about your family's suitability as a tenant;

(5) An estimate of your family's anticipated income for the next twelve months and the sources of that income;

(6) The names and addresses of employers, banks, and any other information the HA would need to verify your income and deductions, and to verify the family composition; and

(7) The PHA also may visit you in your home to interview you and your family members to see how you manage the upkeep of you current home.

After obtaining this information, the HA representative should describe the public housing program and its requirements, and answer any questions you might have.

Yes, the HA representative will request whatever documentation is needed (e.g., birth certificates, tax returns) to verify the information given on your application. The PHA will also rely on direct verification from your employer, etc. You will be asked to sign a form to authorize release of pertinent information to the PHA.

An HA has to provide written notification. If the HA determines that you are eligible, your name will be put on a waiting list, unless the HA is able to assist you immediately. Once your name is reached on the waiting list, the HA will contact you. If it is determined that you are ineligible, the HA must say why and, if you wish, you can request an informal hearing.

If you are offered a house or apartment and accept it, you will have to sign a lease with the HA. You may have to give the HA a security deposit. You and the HA representative should go over the lease together. This will give you a better understanding of your responsibilities as a tenant and the HA's responsibilities as a landlord.

Sometimes there are. Giving preference to specific groups of families enables an HA to direct their limited housing resources to the families with the greatest housing needs. Since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited resources available to HUD and the local HAs, long waiting periods are common. In fact, an HA may close its waiting list when there are more families on the list than can be assisted in the near future.

Each HA has the discretion to establish preferences to reflect needs in its own community. These preferences will be included in the HAs written policy manual. You should ask what preferences they honor so you will know whether you qualify for a preference.

Your rent, which is referred to as the Total Tenant Payment (TTP) in this program, would be based on your family's anticipated gross annual income less deductions, if any. HUD regulations allow HAs to exclude from annual income the following allowances: $480 for each dependent; $400 for any elderly family, or a person with a disability; and some medical deductions for families headed by an elderly person or a person with disabilities. Based on your application, the HA representative will determine if any of the allowable deductions should be subtracted from your annual income. Annual income is the anticipated total income from all sources received from the family head and spouse, and each additional member of the family 18 years of age or older.

The formula used in determining the TTP is the highest of the following, rounded to the nearest dollar:

(1) 30 percent of the monthly adjusted income. (Monthly Adjusted Income is annual income less deductions allowed by the regulations);

(2) 10 percent of monthly income;

(3) welfare rent, if applicable; or

(4) a $25 minimum rent or higher amount (up to $50) set by an HA.

An HA is responsible for the management and operation of its local public housing program. They may also operate other types of housing programs.

(1) On-going functions: (a) Assure compliance with leases. The lease must be signed by both parties; (b) Set other charges (e.g., security deposit, excess utility consumption, and damages to unit); (c) Perform periodic reexaminations of the family's income at least once every 12 months; (d) Transfer families from one unit to another, in order to correct over/under crowding, repair or renovate a dwelling, or because of a resident's request to be transferred; (e) Terminate leases when necessary; and (f) maintain the development in a decent, safe, and sanitary condition.

(2) Sometimes HAs provide other services, that might include such things as: homeownership opportunities for qualified families; employment training opportunities, and other special training and employment programs for residents; and support programs for the elderly.

In general, you may stay in public housing as long as you comply with the lease.

If, at reexamination your family's income is sufficient to obtain housing on the private market, the HA may determine whether your family should stay in public housing. You will not be required to move unless there is affordable housing available for you on the private market.

1.3. Centers for Independent Living

Centers for Independent Living (CIL) can help you locate housing in your community. To find the nearest CIL in your area visit the CIL location finder.

 The term `center for independent living' (CIL) means a consumer‑controlled, community‑based, cross‑disability, nonresidential private nonprofit agency that is designed and operated within a local community by individuals with disabilities and provides an array of independent living services. 51% of staff are persons with disabilities; 51% of Board of Directors are persons with disabilities.


The Four Core Services of Independent Living Are:

Individual and Systems Advocacy

Information and Referral

Peer Support

Independent Living Skills Training



1.4. Renting and Buying Housing Assistance

Useful information for people with disabilities who would like to learn about renting, buying, making your home accessible and about your Fair Housing rights

1.5. Public Housing Agency Search

Find your local Public Housing Agency

1.6. Low-Rent Apartment Search

More from HUD

Low rent apartments: the government gives funds directly to apartment owners, who lower the rents they charge low-income tenants. You can find low-rent apartments for senior citizens and people with disabilities, as well as for families and individuals. Find Low-rent apartments in your community. 

1.7. Locating Accessible Housing

Locating Accessible Housing

Locating an accessible house or apartment can be time-consuming, so it usually comes down to making a few modifications in an elevated apartment building or ranch-style house or trailer. Under the Fair Housing Act, a landlord cannot refuse to allow a renter to make reasonable accommodations to a rental unit for wheelchair accessibility, as long as the renter agrees to restore the unit to its original state, when he or she moves out. Read more about the Fair Housing Act.

For assistance locating accessible housing, contact your local Independent Living Center; they will have referrals. . A directory of all the CILs is listed on the Independent Living Research Utilization Project (ILRU) Web site: and also at Virtual CIL:

Check with other non-profit organizations for housing listings. Looking through mainstream classifieds and most realty companies is often fruitless, but look in your telephone directory yellow pages for realty companies that cater to locating properties with wheelchair access. There are a few rare birds!

NPI/ is a 501(c)(3) dedicated to helping people access affordable housing and supportive services by developing solutions that utilize leading-edge technology. provides a fully-staffed, toll-free English/Spanish call center that helps landlords list and helps tenants search for properties while monitoring the availability and accuracy of listings. Includes extensive accessibility information.
Toll-Free: 1.877.428.8844

The National Accessible Apartment Clearinghouse is a database of apartment listings for people with special housing needs. Information is available on more than 18,000 units nationwide by calling the clearinghouse's hotline (800) 421-1221, or by visiting their Web site at:

1.8. Housing, Mortgages & Financial Help for People with Disabilities

Do you prefer listening over reading? Click to download an audio version of this guide


This guide has been created to help individuals living with disabilities, and their family members, in the process of buying a home of their own. Here you can learn more about the five important steps in buying a home and about financial assistance programs that are available for you living with disabilities, who want to buy a home.

After reading this guide to home ownership for people living with disabilities, you will know more about:

  • The advantages and disadvantages of buying a home
  • The most important steps in the home-buying process
  • Common terms related to home-buying
  • How to get started in your quest to purchase a home
  • Financial assistance geared toward enabling you living with disabilities to buy your own homes

Step 1: Advantages and disadvantages of home ownership

There are over 40 million individuals in the U.S living today with a mental or physical disability. Yet only a small percentage of them enjoy the benefits of home ownership.

Independence and the sense of belonging

Today most of the people who live with a mental or physical disability reside in group homes, institutions, nursing homes or at home with their parents. This means that somebody else is in control and setting the rules. Even if a person may be in need of assistance it is also important that he or she have a measure of autonomy. One advantage of living in your own home is that you are in control and are responsible for your own life and well-being.

Owning a home enhances not only your sense of independence but also your sense of connectedness. As a home owner you will become an important and recognized part of the community. Simple things such as getting to know your neighbors, paying property taxes and belonging to a neighborhood are important parts of independent living. These are some of the benefits of owning your own home.

Responsibility and personal assistance

By investing in a house and engaging in a financing plan, you are taking action based on the decision that this is what you want. By taking this step you are also taking responsibility of your own faith. You are investing in the future and ensuring that you will always have a place of your own. This change often brings a feeling of accomplishment and control.

Of course, even though you'll no longer be living in an institutional setting, you may still need personal assistance. It is available for you as a home owner. The only difference is that it will come to your home instead of the other way around. When professional assistance in group homes or nursing facilities normally are forced to adapt to the general needs of the group you will, by buying your own home, have the possibility to get help according to your own needs and daily routines.

A big step

Buying a home is a big step, all the more so if you are living with disabilities. Living by yourself often requires a higher level of independence and responsibility. If you are dependent on certain assistance or services make sure that the neighborhood in which you're considering buying a home offers a full range of the support services you require.

It also costs more to own and maintain a home of your own then living at home or renting a room in a nursing home. There are several financing options that may help. The sooner you clarify your needs and wants and determine how much you can afford to spend, the better.

These are a few of the advantages and disadvantages when you are thinking of buying your own home. You may come up with more advantages and disadvantages and it is advisable to contact a local housing counselor to help you prepare to make a decision. A housing counselor is a local, often government issued, agency or institution that works with helping you who are living with disabilites in the home buying process. They normally cost little to consult and are available in all U.S states. More information will follow in Step 3: Getting started.

Tip! You can look for a housing counselor in the Yellow Pages of your phone book or ask a friend or family-member to help you.

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the home-buying process

Included in this step are common ways of buying a home. Most important is learning how you are going to pay for a home. And so, in this step, you will learn more about:

  • How to pay for a home
  • What a mortgage loan is

How to pay for a home

The first important step in buying a home is learning how you are going to pay for it. When people buy a home it is common to apply for a mortgage loan (when people want to borrow money from the bank to buy a home they apply for a mortgage loan) at the bank.

Here's a typical scenario in which you decide to take out a mortgage.

  1. You do not have enough money to pay for the home on your own.
  2. So you apply for a mortgage loan and upon approval the bank lends you the money to pay the price that the seller has put.
  3. Before being allowed to take the loan, the bank does a checkup on the your financial situation. This means checking your annual income, future expenses and credit history (checking your credit is to see if you have any unpaid debts to bank or other financial institutions). Based on this information you are either approved or declined to borrow money from the bank.
  4. When taking the loan you normally have to make a down payment (one time payment with personal money, between 3-10 percent of the loan). There are also loans that do no require any down payment.
  5. The bank then sets up a 15 - year or 30 - year payment plan where loan-takers pay the bank each month: principal payment (you pay back the loan to the bank a little bit every month), interest rate (also called mortgage rate, percentage of the loan that goes to the bank for administrative costs and profit). Ongoing costs (additional costs such as mortgage payment, insurance, utility bills, taxes, maintenance) are also paid on a monthly basis.

Take some time and read through these steps. You will find more information throughout

Applying for a mortgage loan

The first step is to contact your local bank office to inform them that you are looking to buy a home and want to apply for a mortgage loan. Your housing counselor can normally help you with this step. The bank will then do the following:

  • Run a credit check. This is a checkup on your economic situation. If you have unpaid debts or credit it will show on the checkup. This helps the bank to decide if you are eligible for a loan. Your income simply has to be steady enough to be able to take on a loan.
  • Decide how much you can afford to borrow. Your mortgage officer will then calculate how much you can afford to borrow based on how much money you earn and on what your regular expenditures are.
  • Help you apply for a loan on the decided amount.

The bank then decides whether or not you are approved to take the mortgage loan. Based on the amount allowed to be borrowed from the bank you can now start looking for a home.

Making an offer on a house

This is where a real estate agent enters the picture. He/she, much like the housing counselor, will help you in finding a home that fits your requirements and additionally manage the contact with the seller.

It is not uncommon that there are many people interested in buying the same home that is for sale. This often results in an auction. Anybody is then allowed to make offers on the property to the seller. The one who bids the highest normally gets to purchase the house.

Upon purchase your real estate agent will help you with all necessary paper work and arrange with the realtor of the seller. It is then important that you have been approved a mortgage loan at this stage.

Step 3: Getting started

Now that you have gotten an insight on how the loan taking process works you are ready to take the first practical step in buying a home. Described below is an example of how to proceed towards buying a home. This process has been adjusted according to the needs of home buyers with disabilities. However, this is not written in stone and a good idea may be to see this process as a foundation to which you can add or remove desired parts.

1. Don't go through it alone

The home-buying process often stretches over longer periods of time and may cause frustration, doubt and irritation. That is why it is advisable to include a friend or family member. Many have learned that having somebody to support and help you during this time is indeed price-less. Since you are going to meet many people and making a lot of decisions it might be a good idea to increase your power by numbers.

2. Contact a housing counselor

Start by locating a housing counselor in your area. The link below will take you to a search engine that lists all HUD approved Housing Counselor in your state. The housing counselor plays a very important role in the process of finding and ultimately buying a home. And HUD approved housing counselors will additionally help you for free or at little cost. The housing counselor is certified and educated in assisting clients in the home-buying process with special needs.

A housing counselor will:

  • Explain your local housing options
  • Research available financial assistance programs
  • Help you reach a housing solution based on your current financial and practical situation

Find a HUD approved Housing Counselor near you! Housing counselors approved by HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, usually costs very little or nothing at all, receiving commission from HUD.

3. Establish what you need & what you can afford

Before you can start looking for a home you need to know what you are looking for. This is when you have to sit down with your housing counselor to make a list of what you want and need. Ask anybody helping you with current assistance to help you list the needs of your disability. Then return to your housing counselor and implement any additional costs required by your needs into the original financial calculation.

4. Get pre-qualified

Getting pre-qualified for a mortgage loan will help you make a realistic estimation on how much you can afford to spend on a house. The lender will quickly go through your financial situation and estimate how much you will be able to borrow. This way you can start looking and narrow your search for homes based on the loan pre-qualification. Not all lenders offer this option but if they do it might be a good idea.

5. Make an offer

Together with your realtor and housing counselor you now have everything set and are ready to start looking for a home. Both your realtor and housing counselor will be able to find what homes the market has to offer.

6. Apply for a mortgage loan

By now you should have gotten a clear picture of what you can afford to buy. Your housing counselor can now assist you in applying for a mortgage loan. Remember, simply applying does not mean that you have to take the loan even if you are approved.

Since you may, due to your disabilities, have a low-income and may not be eligible for a traditional mortgage loan you will find a list with financial assistance options and favorable mortgage loan programs in Step 5. Your housing counselor will also be able to locate any local financial assistance programs.

7. The home inspection

Although it is not required, the seller of a may already have conducted a home inspection through an independent home evaluation service. Nevertheless it is a good idea to establish the condition of the unit by ordering your own inspection of the home. This is important not only to be able to estimate the property value but also to know what changes is required to meet your needs of accessibility.

8. Closing the deal

The deal is closed when the ownership of the home is transferred from the seller to the buyer. Prior to agreed date you will be contacted by the closing attorney representing the lender and will be informed of what to bring to the closing and how it is going to be conducted.

Step 4: Know your rights

Important to know and to have in mind when dealing with realtors, lenders, sellers, housing organizations or financial assistance program representatives are your rights and the legal obligations of included parties.

In this step you will find information about U.S federal laws and regulations that have been established so that your rights as a home buyer with a disability will be protected during the process of home ownership.

Disability rights in housing

Anyone who has a stated and confirmed mental or physical disability that limits ones ability to pursue one or more life activities is protected by federal laws that:

Prohibits discrimination against people with a disability. It is furthermore prohibited to alter or change application or qualification criteria or fees, costs or terms that differ from what is normally required.

Requires housing providers to make accommodations for people with a disability. Housing providers are by law compelled to make changes in policies, services and practices to make residences more accessible for persons with disabilities. However housing providers are not expected or ruled to make any changes that may cause a financial or administrative burden or fundamentally alter the program.

Requires housing provider to allow persons with disabilities to make reasonable modifications. Modifications include simpler accommodations that will allow home owners to enjoy their home to the full extent. This could mean installing grab bars in the bathroom, lowered entry threshold etc.

Requires builders, developers, architects of multifamily residence to be built according to certain accessibility requirements. Read more under The Fair Housing Act below.

The Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act turns to housing providers such as real estate agencies, realtors, landlords and other included parties such as banks and other lenders, home-insurance companies and housing counselors. This law prohibits any discrimination by mentioned entities making it hard or impossible for a person to get housing because of his/her race or skin color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or disability.

The Fair Housing Act requires of home construction builders, architects, developers and owners that multifamily residences built after March 13th, 1991 to meet certain accessibility standards. Included parties can be held responsible to the Fair Housing Act if the following accessibility requirements are not meet:

  • An accessible entrance on an accessible route
  • Accessible common and public areas
  • Sufficiently wide doors for wheelchairs
  • Accessible routes through and into each residence
  • Accessible thermostats, light switches, electrical outlets
  • Reconstruction of bathrooms to accommodate any installation of assistive resources
  • Accessible kitchen and bathroom space

The Fair Housing Act protects against and prohibits discrimination towards anyone with a physical or mental disability. It also includes disabilities like alcoholism and drug addiction.

The Americans with disabilities act

The ADA protects you living with disabilities against discrimination in public accommodations, employment, state or local government, commercial facilities, transportation and telecommunications.

The ADA is a general law monitoring the rights of people living with disabilities against discrimination. When the FHA is more specific for home ownership the American with Disabilities Act is still good to know since it prohibits discrimination in many areas that are often associated with buying a home.

These are some useful laws to know about when thinking of buying a home. For more laws to protect the rights of disabled persons we suggest you visit the official website of the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Step 5: Get financial assistance

One in three Americans living with disabilities also lives below or at the poverty level. That makes millions people with disabilities living under socially and financially acceptable conditions.

This is the final step in making the dream of buying a home come true. This step is directed to future home buyers with disabilities who are in need of financial and general assistance in order to reach the goal of home ownership.

If you conduct a full-time job and have a stable income we suggest that you turn to your local lender for more traditional financial options.

Below you will find a list of national resources that offer financial support of further independent living for families and individuals who are financially or socially affected by a disability.

Social Security - Disability programs

The Social Security administration provides federal disability programs called The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs.

Eligible for the SSI program, according to Social Security's definition of disability, you may receive benefits based on their current financial need from the Supplemental Security Income program.

The SSI program is funded by general tax revenues.

Am I eligible?

In order to be eligible to receive financial benefits of the SSI program you must be:

  • 65 of age or older
  • Blind or disabled
  • Limited in income and resources
  • A U.S citizen or residents , or in one of certain categories of aliens
  • A resident of one of the 50 states, including the District of Columbia and Northern Mariana Islands

And additionally be:

  • Present in the country for a full calendar month or 30 consecutive days
  • Eligible applicant for other financial benefits like pensions, Social Security
  • Allowing SSA permission to track financial records from significant financial institutions.
  • Eligible in filing an application and meets certain requirements.

How does it work?

By visiting the official website of the Social Security administration you will be able to download all necessary application forms for the SSI program in their Disability-section. There you will additionally be able to request help from Social Security.

Simply call your local SS office and schedule a meeting to decide your needs and eligibility. Then apply and file the application within 60 days of the original contact. If approved you will be eligible for financial benefit from the original date when you contacted SS.

What are my alternatives?

Financial benefits from the SSI program are for many an important part of maintaining a secure and sustainable society. Although there are other beneficiary federal programs for low-income and disabled U.S citizens, Social Security is a basic and broad financial assistance program that embraces the largest variety of applicants.

Furthermore, the SSI program may give you a stable enough income in order to be eligible for government backed mortgage loans and affordable housing programs.

Section 8 - The Home ownership voucher program

Section 8, Housing Choice Vouchers is a HUD, The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, federal housing program that financially helps moderate or low-income families with disabilities to rent or buy a home. The goal of this program is for people with limited economy to be able to afford to rent or buy a home. Section 8 hence offers subsidies for both renters and home owners.

HUD's Home ownership Voucher Program is a part of Section 8 and focuses on first-time home buyers that need help in paying their monthly mortgage payments.

Am I eligible?

Following requirements are to be met by eligible first time home owners:

  • No family member has had any present ownership interest in a residence of any family member during the last 3 years. Exceptions are made for single parents or displaced home makers who owned a home while married.
  • Cooperative members
  • Family including a person with a disability

Minimum requirements for disabled families:

  • Monthly SSI benefits for individual living alone multiplied by 12 ($552 x 12 = $6624).
  • Eligible based on HUD limits and/or PHA possible re-establishment of minimum income standards. Certain requirements only apply if you have not been pre-qualified or pre-approved for financing that meets PHA requirements.

How does it work?

The U.S Department of Housing & Urban Development cooperates with selected Public Housing Agencies. Not all PAHs offer home ownership as an option as part of their voucher program. Hence you are required to research if their local PHA offices support home ownership with the Section 8 voucher program.

It is also your responsibility to find eligible housing to purchase. Approved recipients will be granted monthly home ownership assistance payments to help cover mortgage payments.

What are my alternatives?

The Section 8 Voucher program also offer rental assistance. For more information about rentals subsidies funded by HUD go to their official website. An alternative to receive assistance and home ownership through the Voucher Program is to explore if participating PHA office owns and controls any units. An option may the be to purchase PHA owned property as receive financial assistance on mortgage payments.

Habitat for Humanity

A non-profit Christian organization that builds accessible homes for people in need. If approved you are granted a home and a favorable mortgage loans that are sponsored through donations, volunteer work and local, private, federal and state resources. HFH is a globally known organization and has built homes for families and individuals with disabilities and in need of financial support all over the world.

Am I eligible?

The decision to assist you in housing and assistance is made by local Habitat for Humanity affiliate's family selection committee. The decision is based on:

  • Your level of need.
  • Their willingness to become partners in the program.
  • Ability to repay included mortgage loan.

The committee makes the selection according to a common nondiscriminatory policy protecting against any discrimination based on religion, sex or disability.

How does it work?

HFH bases their work in building and rehabilitating simple and decent houses on volunteer work and donations of financial funds and materials. With help from selected home buyer families built houses are then sold to the receiving family for a non-profit market value. Home owners then are offered affordable mortgage loans through Habitat. Monthly mortgage payments by partner families to Habitat for Humanity enable the organization to finance further housing-projects.

Habitat for Humanity simply makes home ownership possible for you upon approval. Additionally to a down payment and monthly mortgage payments partnered families devotes what is called sweat equity; a large amount of their own time, effort and energy to assist in building their own Habitat house and future Habitat houses of others.

What are the alternatives?

Habitat for Humanity is a one-of-a-kind non-profit organization that will, upon eligibility, assist you in fulfilling your dream of home ownership. But they will not do the work for you, simply offering the chance and assistance of others. Home owners who have received help from Habitat for Humanity have gained much more than simple housing. Independence and community support. That is arguably something financial assistance program rarely will contribute to.

Other resources

Additionally to the financing assistance programs above there are other national resources devoted to U.S residents living with disabilities and an improvement in each individual's independent living.

National Organization on Disability

Based on partnerships with non-disability organizations and several NOD programs this national organization is an established authority in supporting the American and International community of people with disabilities.

With a goal to create awareness and understanding for persons living with disabilities NOD is running programs and partnerships to improve housing, accessibility, religion, employment and much more.

National Disability Institute

The mission of NDI is to build healthy financial futures for Americans with disabilities through employment initiatives, technical housing assistance, financial education and many other resources. NDI also has a wide partnership network of local, public, private, state and federal banks, investment businesses and organizations.

NCB Capital Impact

NCB Capital Impact is a coordinator for cooperative work in primarily addressing the problems that are associated with poverty in the Unites States. Together with non-profit organizations, investors and other partnership NCB Capital Impact has made possible for U.S citizens in need of financial, practical, social or other assistance.

NCB Capital Impact in partnership with the National Disability Institute strives to increase social and economic independence amongst individuals with a disability. The goal of this partnership is to establish economic freedom for American with disabilities.

AAPD - American Association for People with Disabilities

AAPD is considered to be the biggest national cross-disability member organization in America, AAPD works in partnership with other disability organizations and with own resources to ensure economic, social and political security for all Americans with disabilities.

AAPD sees to improve the current situation for U.S citizens with disabilities and works to make economic benefits and resources accessible to people with disabilities.

As the largest disability members organization AAPD has established reliable partnerships and offer great resources.


Information from

1.9. Guide to Home Ownership for People With Disabilties

Owning a home is a key part of the American dream. Unfortunately, if you have a disability, you may find it harder to afford to buy and retrofit a home to accommodate your needs. That’s because if you are unable to work or if you face significant medical expenses, you might not be able to qualify for a traditional mortgage or provide a 20% down payment.

Home ownership for people with disabilities is often important because many rentals lack accessible options. Buying a home may be the best option if you need unique physical accommodations to your living spaces.

Luckily, there are some programs that can help you both purchase a home and retrofit it to accommodate your disability, and greatly improve your quality of life.

Home Ownership for Those With a Disability: Pros and Cons

There are a lot of pros and cons of home ownership in general, but there are also some particular benefits and drawbacks to consider if you have a disability.

Pros of Ownership

One benefit of buying a home is that you can renovate your space to accommodate your particular needs. For example, if you need a special shower, lower counters, ramps, or wider doors, you can make those changes without having to depend on a landlord or public housing authority to do it.

This can be particularly important to those who live in areas where there isn't a lot of accessible rental housing options, or to those who have unique accessibility needs. In some cases, having your own place is one of the only ways that you can live with more independence and comfort.

Other benefits include the ability to build wealth and equity through the asset of your home that you can someday use to access cash through a home equity line of credit or to sell and support your retirement.

Cons of Ownership

Unfortunately, there are a lot of downsides . The first is that you are responsible for all the maintenance. If something breaks down, you’ll have to pay for it. If you have a yard, you will either have to take care of it yourself or pay someone to do so. Depending on your disability and income, it could be difficult for you to do this. These additional expenses could be especially difficult if you are on a limited income.

If you have several emergency expenses and not enough savings, you could struggle to pay your mortgage and lose your home. It could then become difficult for you to find another place to live at the last minute. You’ll likely then have bad credit and many landlords check your credit before renting to you.

Another downside is that making changes to your home to improve your accessibility could potentially decrease the resale value of your home. While you might luck out and find a buyer who needs similar accommodations, those who don’t need such accommodations might not want to pay as much if they are must renovate the home by, for example, raising the counters or changing the shower or bath.

Financial Assistance for People With Disabilities

If you have a disability and want help buying a home, there are a number of funding sources to help you.

Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance

Depending on your personal situation, you might qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance of Supplemental Security Income. These government benefits are designed to help provide you with income if you become disabled. Supplemental Security Income is for anyone who has a financial need and is disabled, whereas Social Security Disability Insurance is for those who paid Social Security taxes on their income and then became disabled.

To qualify, you must meet Social Security’s definition of disability and apply for benefits. SSI benefits can be up to $750 per month for individuals and $1,125 for couples. SSDI can be up to $2,788 per month. These funds aren’t earmarked for housing, but they can help pay for your mortgage.

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was set up, in part, to make home ownership easier and more accessible. They have a few different programs that could help disabled homeowners. The Homeownership Vouchers Program (Section 8) allows those who need housing vouchers to use them to pay their mortgage or help them purchase a home rather than just for renting.

Another program that could help people with disabilities is the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, which provides mortgage insurance for loans from lenders that are partners in the FHA loans program. By providing insurance, the FHA ensures that lenders can give borrowers lower interest rates since their risks are mitigated. These lower rates mean that homeownership is more accessible to people who are low-income, including disabled people who qualify.

VA Home Loans for Disabled Veterans (VA Loans)

If you were injured while serving in the military, then the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can potentially help you with a grant or loan to buy or build a home that is adapted to your needs. The VA has Specially Adapted Housing Grants or Special Housing Adaptation Grants to help you buy, build, or remodel a home.

Fannie Mae

Fannie Mae is a government-sponsored, for-profit company that was set up to help Americans access affordable mortgages. Fannie Mae has specialty programs for borrowers who have disabilities and provides loans with flexible underwriting criteria to help more disabled people qualify for their HomeReady Mortgage Program.

Homes for Our Troops

If you’re a veteran who was injured in Iraq or Afghanistan, you might meet the criteria to get help with an adapted home via the non-profit Homes for Our Troops. This organization helps veterans who were injured after September 11, 2001. It donates newly constructed and specially adapted custom homes for veterans to be able to live independently. This organization mostly works with veterans who have had multiple limb amputations, partial or full paralysis, or severe traumatic brain injury.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity helps people who have low incomes fulfill their dream of home ownership. With organizations in almost 30 states, Habitat for Humanity does not specifically focus on disabled homeowners, but disabled homeowners certainly may qualify. This organization is known for requiring that people who get houses put in ‘sweat equity’ and help build homes, but the labor doesn’t have to be physical. You can deliver ‘sweat equity’ in other ways to qualify.

Applying for a Mortgage Loan

If you’ve never owned a home before, you might be overwhelmed with the idea of applying for a mortgage. If you choose not to go with one of the programs above that helps you to pay for a home through a special program, then you might decide to approach a lender directly. Here is what the process will look like:

1) Choose a Lender

The first part of your mortgage application process involves choosing a lender. Shop around. There are several websites where you can get quotes from multiple lenders. You can find out if you would qualify for a loan and get an estimate of the interest you’ll pay.

If you want lower rates, consider lenders who offer FHA loans, or lenders who are known to work with people with disabilities on limited income. If you only work part-time or if you don’t work, you might struggle to find a lender who is willing to provide you with a mortgage.

2) Get Pre-approved

Getting pre-approved before going out and shopping for your new home is critical. That’s because you will know what your budget is, which will ensure that you don’t look at homes over your budget. While a pre-approval isn’t written in stone, it gives you a better idea of how much you’ll qualify for.

3) Find Your House

Looking for a home is the fun part of buying property. This can also be tricky if you have a disability that requires your home be adapted to your disability or can be easily adapted. If the property needs to be adapted with renovations, factor those costs in. Once you find the house of your dreams, you can make an offer and see if it’s accepted by the sellers.

4) Apply for a Loan

Once your offer is accepted, you must finish your loan application. To do this, you might need to provide more information or documents and sign all sorts of papers. There might be slight differences between what you were pre-approved for and how much the lender is willing to lend to you.

5) Home Inspection

Before you can close on your mortgage or your new home, you’ll need to have someone inspect the home to confirm that it is up to code with no major problems. This will often be required by the bank, but it benefits you because it will protect you from problems down the road. If your home fails the inspection, you can back out of the offer or offer less.

6) Close

There are many things involved in closing on the sale of a house including closing on the mortgage, signing papers to transfer ownership, and possibility even getting mortgage insurance or life insurance if your bank requires it. Be sure to budget for closing costs which average around $3,700, according to Zillow.

Disability Rights in Housing

When it comes to home ownership for people with disabilities, there numerous laws and legislation that will protect you against discrimination. Here’s what you need to know:

The Fair Housing Act

This legislation protects you from homeowners or landlords that won’t rent or sell to someone because they’re disabled or who want to provide a different set of rules for those with disabilities. It also protects against zoning or land use policies that could prevent disabled people from living in certain areas.

Reasonable Accommodations

The right to ‘reasonable accommodations’ is a part of the Fair Housing Act that will help you when you buy a home. For example, if you buy into a condo, you could request reasonable accommodations around a parking space that has more room for you to get in and out of your vehicle or is closer to the elevator.

Assistance Animals

Some condos or homeowners association have ‘no pets’ policies or limit the size of pets. But if you have an assistance animal, you are allowed by law to have your service animal with you because it is considered a reasonable accommodation.

Zoning and Land Use

Some land use and zoning practices can be discriminatory to people with disabilities. For example, your community might require that all homes be set back a certain number of feet from the street, but you might need to build a ramp. The good news is that they cannot legally prevent you from building the ramp because it’s a reasonable accommodation. Most towns will have the option of applying for an exemption, although they might have rules regarding how you can build your ramp, which could be more costly.

Local and State Laws

Laws differ depending on where you live. Some laws might be working for your protection, while others might be not provide you with reasonable accommodations. Before you buy a home, look into the laws near you.

Bottom Line

For people with disabilities, buying a home is very feasible. It could greatly improve your quality of life and independence. However, there are a number of financial risks involved in such a big investment. It might not be right for you. Consider all the benefits and downsides, and talk to other disabled people who own homes to make sure that you’re making the right decision.

1.10. Designated Housing Vouchers

What are designated housing program vouchers?
Designated housing vouchers enable non-elderly families with a disabled person, who would be eligible for public housing if occupancy were not restricted to elderly families to lease safe, decent and affordable housing.


1.11. Vouchers for People with Disabilities

Find housing vouchers available to people with disabilities.

1.12. Accessible Space Inc-Accessible, Affordable Housing

Accessible Space, Inc. (ASI), is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization which provides accessible, affordable housing, supportive living opportunities and rehabilitation services for adults with physical disabilities and brain injuries, as well as seniors. Many states have these needs-based housing options where each apartment has a roll-in shower and roll-under kitchen counters. Residents pay only 30% of their monthly income on rent. 

1.13. ABILITY House

Built in partnership with Habitat for Humanity affiliates, each ABILITY House is an accessible home built for a family where one or more members have health conditions or disabilities. Additionally, the ABILITY House project reaches out to volunteers with health conditions and disabilities to help build the homes, demonstrating to the community their skills, talents and potential as volunteers and employees.

1.14. Refinance & Mortgage Guide for People with Disabilities

 Refinance & Mortgage Guide for People with Disabilities (audio version available here)

This guide seeks not only to provide the reader with the most relevant and essential resources needed to navigate the myriad of red tape and sometimes rigid processes regularly associated with real estate purchases; it also aims to educate you.

To summarize, by the end of this guide you should have a basic understanding of the following:

  • The advantages and disadvantages of purchasing a home
  • Keys steps to follow in the buying process
  • The types of mortgages available to you as a home buyer
  • Financial and Legal resources available to you
  • Final tips & Warnings

Many people with disabilities agree that one way of taking charge and exercising some degree of control in their lives is by becoming a home owner. If you are currently a home owner who has recently been disabled, you may have new physical, mental and financial restrictions and needs which affect or even threaten your ongoing ability to maintain your home. Results of recent studies also reveal that only a small segment of people with disabilities own their own residences. Instead, the majority of the nation's people with disabilities live in group residences, therapeutic or rehabilitation institutions, nursing facility complexes, or in the home of a family member. A small percentage of children with disabilities live in adoptive or foster homes; and some communities, churches, civic groups and charitable organizations are now promoting programs which encourage families to sponsor a senior citizen, adolescent or child who is mentally challenged or physically impaired.

However, many psychologists, M.D.s and other medical staff members, social workers and community leaders agree that for the majority of adults with disabilities, some level of independent living is highly beneficial both to their emotional well-being and to development of self-reliance and confidence. Of course, as home owners, adults with disabilities can ideally have and maintain such levels of control and responsibility in their lives, thus enhancing their feelings of self-worth and independence.

Click the link to listen to an audio version of this guide by using the embedded player below


Chapter 1 – Historical Overview

As a person who's disabled in the United States, whether you live in a public housing facility or a private residence, Federal laws protect you from discrimination due to your disability. Not only must all residential property owners and realtors abide by legal requirements for accessibility and usage of rental apartments and houses for sale in the present day real estate market, but they must also abide by laws prohibiting discrimination against interested potential buyers and renters with disabilities.

Another very important aspect of Federal legislation protecting the disabled is that the term "disability" has been clearly defined. By definition, an individual with a disability is someone with a mental or physical limitation that causes definite and lasting impairment of at least one major life activity. Generally included impairments or handicaps are loss of hearing, mobility and sight, as well as such chronic conditions as alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness and retardation, AIDS and AIDS related illnesses and medical conditions. The basic life activities and functions referred to are breathing, hearing, seeing, walking, talking, performing simple tasks, elementary learning and self-care. Aside from being quite helpful when applying for home healthcare services, disability insurance compensation, and various types of funding, a generally accepted definition of the term is a great aid in acquiring a good mortgage when a person with a disability makes the decision to get onto the property ladder.

Click the link to listen to an audio version of this guide by using the embedded player below


Chapter 2 – Pros and Cons of a Disabled Person Acquiring a Mortgage

There are both advantages and disadvantages associated with successfully obtaining a mortgage and purchasing a home as a person with a disability.

  • If you are presently receiving therapy or rehabilitation treatments at a medical or community facility, you may now choose to have these treatments provided in your new private residence by home healthcare workers. Or, if continuing to receive treatment at an ambulatory facility is best for you, you can now arrange transportation to and from that facility and your home, usually funded by your medical disability insurance.


  • Homeownership comes with an immense sense of freedom and independence. As a home owner, you are free to install ramps, handlebars, beds and baths for the handicapped throughout your home, as needed. You can structure your time as you like, leading a more relaxed life than is often possible in a nursing facility or group residence.


  • However, as a new home owner with one or more personal handicaps or impairments, getting the lay of your local vicinity will help the bedding in period of a new home. For instance, you will need to familiarize yourself with services and amenities readily available in your neighborhood and surrounding community. Is public and/or private transportation also available and easy to access? Do stores, shops, pharmacies and service businesses provide delivery of food, clothing, medicines, household and appliance maintenance supplies when requested? Are there smooth sidewalks and easy walking areas without steps in public areas near your house? Is wheelchair access commonly available, if needed, in buildings you will need to enter and exit? Such issues with immediate relevance and importance, as well as financial questions, can often be discussed and resolved well ahead of your move to your new home, by consulting a professional, experienced housing counselor.


  • The primary financial concerns you will now face as a home owner with a disability can seem somewhat overwhelming if you are confronting them alone. Yet, with the expert advice of a knowledgeable housing counselor, many potential problems can be avoided completely or dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Click the link to listen to an audio version of this guide by using the embedded player below


Chapter 3 – Getting Started in the Home Purchasing Process

Once you've decided you would like to become a homeowner you will need to adhere to the following steps:

At the Bank: Together with your housing counselor should contact your bank to apply for a mortgage loan. The bank will then evaluate your overall financial status by checking your annual income, yearly expenses, outstanding debts and credit history. Since you are disabled, your income and other financial data may differ substantially from those of other people in your age group who are not disabled. Your housing counselor can be helpful in outlining your special needs and limitations which affect certain figures in your financial profile. If this is your first mortgage application, your counselor and bank loan officer can also assist in your full understanding of loan down payments, mortgage rates (or interest rates), monthly principal payments and additional ongoing costs. Your counselor can also help you find other suitable financial aid programs to supplement and enhance your overall financial situation. (Some of the best informed housing counselors are obtainable through HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development.)

Outline your needs: Next, you, your counselor, and perhaps your M.D., a nurse or home care worker who fully understands your condition, should make a complete listing of your special needs in order to determine what home type and interior design will best meet your daily requirements. If you get pre-qualified for a mortgage loan, this will enable you to ascertain a realistic estimate of how much you can reasonably afford to spend on a house along with any necessary accessories and remodeling. And, above all else, be aware that some mortgage loan representatives and even bank loan officers may not offer you a full range of mortgage opportunities simply because of your type of disability.

Since 1990, there have been some remarkable milestones in raising the number of national home owners among minorities and people with disabilities:

|— In 1990, the Low Income Housing Preservation and Resident Homeownership Act was passed, preserving and rehabilitating low and moderate income housing, which benefited many home seekers.

|— In 1993, President Clinton increased available financing for housing by means of an Interagency Policy Statement on Credit Availability.

|— In 1994, Fannie Mae made a $1 trillion commitment to increase targeted mortgage loans to minorities and people with disabilities.

|— In 1999, NAHB, HUD and the nation's city mayors joined forces and interests to build new homes in both inner city neighborhoods and older suburban areas, making more homes available for lower income families, minorities and home seekers with disabilities.

Click the link to listen to an audio version of this guide by using the embedded player below


Chapter 4 – Types of Mortgage Loans Available

Beginning as a government agency in 1938, Fannie Mae became a private company owned by shareholders in 1968. It offers numerous mortgage products and programs which provide equal opportunities for becoming home owners to people with disabilities or handicapped family members. Programs currently in operation include:

  • Community HomeChoice – for the disabled at low to moderate income levels. It provides for flexibility of Loan-to-Value ratios (LTVs), down payment sources, qualifying ratios, and credit establishment.
  • Community Living – a lending product structured to offer financing for small, group homes for children and adults who are disabled and cannot live independently. These mortgage loans are different from more traditional mortgage designs since borrowers are not necessarily individuals. Also eligible as applicants are non-profit and profit seeking corporations, limited partnerships, and government agencies aiding both children and adults who are disabled.
  • Community Landing – varied mortgage programs, often with low or no down payment requirements designed specifically to benefit applicants by helping them conquer the two most common obstacles to owning a home: down payment funds and qualifying income. These mortgage products usually have lower closing costs and a higher debt allowance than most traditional mortgages.

The Most Popular Mortgage Types

Fixed Rate Mortgages – This variety of mortgage loan (often referred to as "the granddad of all mortgages") is now offered as 10-year15-year20-year30-year40-year, and 50-year fixed-rate mortgage loans, and all are completely amortized.

FHA Loans – FHA mortgages are government insured and come with the lowest possible payment requirements.

VA Loans – Veterans Administration loans are provided for veterans of the U.S. Armed Services. These loans are government guaranteed, and the borrower is not required to make a down payment.

Interest-Only Mortgages
 – These loans include an option to render an interest-only payment.

Hybrid Varieties of Mortgages

Option ARM Mortgages – These adjustable-rate mortgage loans can be complex. However, their main feature is that of a fluctuating interest rate allowing borrowers to make choices from various payment options and index rates.

Combo / Piggyback Mortgage Loans – This variety of mortgage loan is comprised of a first and second mortgage.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages
 — ARMs come with fluctuating interest rates which can actually remain fixed for a substantial period before adjusting.

Mortgage Buydowns – Mortgage buydowns allow borrowers to pay a lower initial rate of interest. Lenders, buyers or sellers can buy down the interest rate.

Specialty Mortgage Types

Streamlined-K Mortgage Loans – This FHA loan plan provides funding to borrowers for the purpose of renovating or making improvements to a home (and can be compared to the 203K loan program).

Bridge / Swing Loans – This variety of mortgage loan can be useful after a seller has put a house on the market which has not yet sold. To enable the seller to buy another home, the unsold home is used as security or collateral (or swing).

Equity Mortgages – These loans are second position and junior to the first loan. With an equity loan, the borrower can draw funding from a line of credit.

Reverse Mortgages – Anyone over 62 years of age can apply for a reverse mortgage. With this mortgage loan plan, for the duration of time the borrower lives in a home, the lender makes monthly payments to the borrower.

Obtaining a second mortgage can be quite helpful in handling unexpected, but unavoidable expenses, such as automobile repairs, home repairs and improvements, or extra college or business expenses. A second mortgage is simply a loan taken out against your property (your home) subsequent to your first, or primary loan. Your home serves as collateral for acquiring the second loan. Since the second mortgage loan takes second place priority to your first mortgage, if you should have the misfortune of defaulting on both loans, you must pay off your primary loan first. It can be advantageous to obtain a second mortgage loan in such circumstances as:

  • You need to pay off a sizable debt balance;
  • You need capital for a start-up business or an attractive investment opportunity;
  • You do not want to pay costs of private mortgage insurance (to avoid this expense, your second loan must cover 20% of the home's purchase price).
  • You want to buy a new car, more property, or make extensive home improvements;
  • You want to build another home or commercial structure.

By means of a second home loan, you can borrow to the limit of your home's equity, or up to the amount of the home value which you now own outright. Although some lenders will let you have a second mortgage equivalent to 125% of the appraised value of your home, the majority of lenders will allow you a second loan which brings the total loan-to-value ratio of both loans equal to 85% of your home's value.

Your interest rate on the second loan acquired will be greater than that on the primary loan, especially since, should you default on your loans, you must pay off the primary one first.

Both fixed rate home equity loans and adjustable rate home equity lines of credit can be obtained, based on your credit score, total loan to value ratio, and relative to currently existing market trends.

By consulting a number of lenders and obtaining quotes, you can shop for the most appropriate second loan for your needs. After you fill out the necessary paper work to apply for the loan, an appraisal will be conducted to ascertain the present value of your home. At the closing for the second loan, you must pay closing costs, just as you did when obtaining your first loan.

After you acquire your second mortgage loan, you can then refinance the primary loan. At this time you should request that your lender make the second loan subordinate to the refinance loan. Unless you do so, the second loan will become the primary loan, while the refinance mortgage loan becomes secondary.

Since, if you default on the second mortgage, you could lose your property due to foreclosure, it is imperative that you undertake a complete budget analysis before acquiring the second loan.

Click the link to listen to an audio version of this guide by using the embedded player below


Chapter 5 – Benefits of Refinance Mortgages

If your monthly payments and other expenses are steadily increasing, or if you have mounting debt balances which you would like to clear as soon as possible, you should consider the benefits of refinancing your mortgage. The mortgage refinancing process actually replaces your present mortgage loan with a new loan having a better interest rate and more manageable terms and conditions. Your home will now serve as security for both loans. At the same time the second loan pays down the existing primary mortgage, the remaining funds can be used to best benefit you and the projects you choose to pursue.

The following are five legitimate reasons for choosing a mortgage refinance:

  1. You wish to save more on a regular basis. With a mortgage refinance, your monthly payments will decrease, provided you are successful in getting a lower rate of interest.
  2. Your desire is to pay down your mortgage swiftly. By reducing your loan term, you can shorten the duration of your mortgage. Although your monthly payments will subsequently increase, you will save money in interest payments. And, what's more, you will eliminate your debt more quickly.
  3. You are in need of cash flow to pay credit card balances. Having extensive equity in your home will enable you to refinance and borrow beyond the current loan balance. Then, with the extra cash resulting, you can eliminate high interest debts. Additionally, in some cases a refinance mortgage loan may be a tax deduction.
  4. You see the advantage in consolidating two loans into a single loan. With sufficient equity (based on high appreciation), you can consolidate two loans into one. With any luck, monthly payments on the second mortgage may be lower than the combined payments on the two mortgage loans.
  5. You favor converting an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) into a Fixed Rate Mortgage (FRM). With an FRM, the lender is unable to increase your monthly interest payments throughout the duration of the loan, so your payment amounts due each month will not vary.

Click the link to listen to an audio version of this guide by using the embedded player below


Chapter 6 – Useful Resources for Disabled Citizens

FHA: Both the FHA (Fair Housing Act) and the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) offer protection to the disabled in all areas of housing. While the ADA safeguards the rights of people living with handicaps, the FHA offers protection specifically relative to home ownership. Numerous additional laws and regulations structured to protect the interests of those U.S. citizens and residents with disabilities can be found on the official HUD Web site: http://www.hud/gov.

When contacting realtors, remember that the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against disabled persons purchasing or bidding on homes. Under FHA, multifamily residences built after March 13, 1991 must satisfy specific standards of accessibility, such as:

  • Accessible entrance from an accessible street or road;
  • Doorways sufficiently wide to accommodate wheelchairs;
  • Easily reachable light switches, outlets and thermostats;
  • Bathroom reconstruction, if needed, for the disabled;
  • Accessible kitchen space and appliances.

The SSI: The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are also a good place to turn for financial benefits. In general, Social Security has a comprehensive financial assistance program which includes the nation's most extensive variety of applicants. As a source of additional money, SSI may provide the funding to stabilize your income so you may qualify for government backed mortgage loans. One benefit of applying for funding from SSI is that, provided you file your application within 60 days of your first contact date, if you are approved, your initial funding start date will coincide with the date of your initial agency contact.

The Section 8, Housing Choice Vouchers: This is a HUD Program which grants financial aid to moderate and low-income families with disabilities for the purpose of renting or buying a home. It gives special attention to first-time home purchasers needing assistance in meeting monthly mortgage payments.

Habitat for Humanity (HFH): This is a globally recognized organization having constructed homes worldwide for needy families and single people, as well as the disabled. As a Christian non-profit group, HFH builds and grants accessible homes with mortgages sponsored by means of donations, and through private, federal and state sources. Home owners who receive aid from HFH, in turn help build their own Habitat homes, as well as future Habitat houses for other applicants. HFH feels this involvement gives all participants a strong sense of self-worth, independence and community support.

The National Opportunities for Affordable Housing Foundation (N.O.A.H.): is a non-profit agency which helps make both buyers and sellers knowledgeable concerning good real estate practices and decisions. It is a reliable source to consult on affordable housing and aid for down payments and closing costs. With special concerns for minorities and people with disabilities, the N.O.A.H. Foundation helps first and second-time home buyers to locate mortgage assistance programs at both the state and local government levels, such as: Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Programs; Grant Funds Programs; and Below Market Interest Rate Programs.

Homes for Our Troops: This is a non-profit organization providing individually adapted homes for severely injured and disabled U.S. veterans of military forces service, at no cost. It is funded by donations from a wide range of corporate, building industry and community organizational donors.

Click the link to listen to an audio version of this guide by using the embedded player below


Chapter 7 – Final Tips & Warnings


When Should You Refinance Your Mortgage?

  • You can consider refinancing your mortgage after you build up 10% or more equity in your home. (The requirement for refinancing Fannie Mae mortgages is 5% equity.) In some instances, you may be allowed to refinance with even less than 5% equity, but a payment may be required before doing so to even out the difference in equity.
  • When in doubt, follow the 2% Rule. According to the 2% Rule, a good time to refinance your mortgage is when the refinance interest rate is 2% lower than the interest rate of your present mortgage loan. Your interest savings will assist you in regaining the cost of the new loan. Although it is tempting to go for no-cost or low-cost refinance mortgages, such loans often come with high interest rates and may be difficult to obtain during a down-swing in the credit market. Prior to applying for mortgage refinancing, be sure to comparison shop among lenders for the best possible refinancing interest rates.
  • Avoid making late payments. The majority of lenders request that you have no late monthly payments during the 12 months preceding any application for refinancing your mortgage loan.
  • Review your credit report and remove any inaccuracies or negative information before applying for refinancing. Failure to do this may prevent you from obtaining a refinancing loan at a competitive rate.


When Should You Refrain from Refinancing Your Loan?

  • If the value of your property has decreased, it may not be a good time to refinance your mortgage loan. If you should refinance up to 80% of your home's appraisal value while your property value is down, the amount of your first mortgage loan may be greater than the amount you now borrow. In this case, you will not be able to pay down the initial mortgage with your newly acquired loan.
  • If you are in the last stages of paying off a 30-year fixed rate mortgage loan, refinancing will not be helpful. The amount of your equity loss will far exceed the remaining amount of your loan.
  • Refinancing is not a recommended option if the amount of your equity is substantially diminished due to a second mortgage or home equity loan. And remember, it is very unusual to locate a refinance loan equal to 100% of the original mortgage.
  • Refinancing is also not recommended if you have just a few years remaining on your present loan. Obtaining an additional loan at this point will only serve to increase your debt once again. And, whenever you are making a decision about refinancing a loan, you must determine whether it's to your current advantage to choose a simple interest rate adjustment refinance option or a refinance plan that will provide you with extra available funds.

Click the link to listen to an audio version of this guide by using the embedded player below



Through the concerted efforts of many dedicated organizations, agencies, designated interest support groups, medical and healthcare facilities and staff, government legislation and funding agencies, communities, industries, social and charitable groups and strongly motivated individuals, the number of home owners with disabilities is gradually increasing each year in the U.S.

With the ongoing support and guidance of such dedicated groups and individuals, along with new and innovative avenues and opportunities for obtaining acceptance for the latest advances in home owner mortgages, home equity loans, and other financial products and tools, the nation as a whole will gain knowledge and awareness of the specialized needs and concerns of the disabled population. At the same time, the disabled will continue to gain new levels of independence, self-reliance and personal esteem by becoming enthusiastic and successful home owners and vital, supportive, contributing community members and leaders.

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2. Accessibility & Universal Design

2.1. FAQ's about Accessibility



Office of the Assistant Secretary for
Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
24 CFR Ch.I
[Docket No. N-94- ;FR-2665-N-08)
Supplement to Notice of Fair Housing Accessibility
Guidelines: Questions and Answers about the Guidelines

AGENCY: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, HUD.

ACTION: Supplement to Notice of Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines: Questions and Answers about the Guidelines.

SUMMARY: On March 6, 1991 (56 FR 9472), the Department published final Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines (Guidelines) to provide builders and developers with technical guidance on how to comply with the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (Fair Housing Act) that are applicable to certain multifamily dwellings designed and constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991. Since publication of the Guidelines, the Department has received many questions regarding the applicability of the technical specifications set forth in the Guidelines to certain types of new multifamily dwellings and certain types of units within covered multifamily dwellings. The Department also has received several questions concerning the types of new multifamily dwellings that are subject to the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act.

This document reproduces the questions that have been most frequently asked by members of the public, and the Department's answers to these questions. The Department believes that the issues addressed by these questions and answers may be of interest and assistance to other members of the public who must comply with the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act. This notice of questions and answers about the Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines will be codified in the 1994 edition of the Code of Federal Regulations as Appendix IV to the Fair Housing regulations (24 CFR Ch.I., Subch.A, App. IV).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cheryl Kent, Special Advisor for Disability Policy, Office of Enforcement, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, 451 Seventh St., S.W., Washington, DC 20410, telephone 202-708-2333, Ext. 7058 (voice) or 202-708-1734 (TTY).


The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (Pub.L. 100-430, approved September 13, 1988) (the Fair Housing Amendments Act) amended title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act or Act) to add prohibitions against discrimination in housing on the basis of disability and familial status. The Fair Housing Amendments Act also made it unlawful to design and construct certain multifamily dwellings for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, in a manner that makes them inaccessible to persons with disabilities, and established design and construction requirements to make these dwellings readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Section 100.205 of the Department's regulations at 24 CFR part 100 implements the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements (also referred to as accessibility requirements).

On March 6, 1991 (56 FR 9472), the Department published final Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines (Guidelines) to provide builders and developers with technical guidance on how to comply with the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act. (The Guidelines are codified at 24 CFR Ch.I, Subch.A., App. II. The preamble to the Guidelines is codified at 24 CFR Ch.I, Subch.A., App.III.) The Guidelines are organized to follow the sequence of requirements as they are presented in the Fair Housing Act and in 24 CFR 100.205. The Guidelines provide technical guidance on the following seven requirements:

Requirement 1. Accessible building entrance on an accessible route.
Requirement 2. Accessible common and public use areas.
Requirement 3. Usable doors (usable by a person in a wheelchair).
Requirement 4. Accessible route into and through the dwelling unit.
Requirement 5. Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations.
Requirement 6. Reinforced walls for grab bars.
Requirement 7. Usable kitchens and bathrooms.

The design specifications presented in the Guidelines are recommended guidelines only. Builders and developers may choose to depart from these guidelines and seek alternate ways to demonstrate that they have met the requirements of the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act and the Department's implementing regulation provides, for example, for use of the appropriate requirements of the ANSI A117.1 standard. However, adherence to the Guidelines does constitute a safe harbor in the Department's administrative enforcement process for compliance with the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements.

Since publication of the Guidelines, the Department has received many questions regarding applicability of the design specifications set forth in the Guidelines to certain types of new multifamily dwellings and to certain types of interior housing designs. The Department also has received several questions concerning the types of new multifamily dwellings that are subject to compliance with the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act. Given the wide variety in the types of multifamily dwellings and the types of dwelling units, and the continual introduction into the housing market of new building and interior designs, it was not possible for the Department to prepare accessibility guidelines that would address every housing type or housing design. Although the Guidelines cannot address every housing design, it is the Department's intention to assist the public in complying with the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act through workshops and seminars, telephone assistance, written replies to written inquiries, and through the publication of documents such as this one. The Department has contracted for the preparation of a design manual that will further explain and illustrate the Fair Housing Act Accessibility Guidelines.

The questions and answers set forth in this notice address the issues most frequently raised by the public with respect to types of multifamily dwellings subject to the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act, and the technical specifications contained in the Guidelines.

The question and answer format is divided into two sections. Section 1, entitled "Dwellings Subject to the New Construction Requirements of the Fair Housing Act" addresses the issues raised in connection with the types of multifamily dwellings (including portions of such dwellings) constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, that must comply with the Act's design and construction requirements. Section 2, entitled "Accessibility Guidelines," addresses the issues raised in connection with the design and construction specifications set forth in the Guidelines.

Date: June 28, 1994


Roberta Achtenberg, Assistant Secretary
for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

Accordingly, the Department adds the "Questions and Answers about the Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines" as Appendix IV to 24 CFR, Ch.I, Subchapter A to read as follows:


Appendix IV to Ch.I, Subchapter A -- Questions and Answers
about the Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines


Questions and Answers about the
Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines

On March 6, 1991 (56 FR 9472), the Department published final Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines (Guidelines). (The Guidelines are codified at 24 CFR Ch. I, Subch. A, App. II.) The Guidelines provide builders and developers with technical guidance on how to comply with the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (Fair Housing Act) that are applicable to certain multifamily dwellings designed and constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991. Since publication of the Guidelines, the Department has received many questions regarding the applicability of the technical specifications set forth in the Guidelines to certain types of new multifamily dwellings and certain types of units within covered multifamily dwellings. The Department also has received several questions concerning the types of new multifamily dwellings that are subject to the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act.

The questions and answers contained in this document address some of the issues most frequently raised by the public with respect to the types of multifamily dwellings subject to the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act, and the technical specifications contained in the Guidelines.

The issues addressed in this document are addressed only with respect to the application of the Fair Housing Act and the Guidelines to dwellings which are "covered multifamily dwellings" under the Fair Housing Act. Certain of these dwellings, as well as certain public and common use areas of such dwellings, may also be covered by various other laws, such as section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794); the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 4151-4157); and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12101-12213).

Section 504 applies to programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. The Department's regulations for section 504 are found at 24 CFR part 8.

The Architectural Barriers Act applies to certain buildings financed in whole or in part with federal funds. The Department's regulations for the Architectural Barriers Act are found at 24 CFR parts 40 and 41.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a broad civil rights law guaranteeing equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications. The Department of Justice is the lead federal agency for implementation of the ADA and should be contacted for copies of relevant ADA regulations.

The Department has received a number of questions regarding applicability of the ADA to residential housing, particularly with respect to title III of the ADA, which addresses accessibility requirements for public accommodations. The Department has been asked, in particular, if public and common use areas of residential housing are covered by title III of the ADA. Strictly residential facilities are not considered places of public accommodation and therefore would not be subject to title III of the ADA, nor would amenities provided for theexclusive use of residents and their guests. However, common areas that function as one of the ADA's twelve categories of places of public accommodation within residential facilities are considered places of public accommodation if they are open to persons other than residents and their guests. Rental offices and sales office for residential housing, for example, are by their nature open to the public, and are places of publicaccommodation and must comply with the ADA requirements in addition to all applicable requirements of the Fair Housing Act.

As stated above, the remainder of this notice addresses issues most frequently raised by the public with respect to the types of multifamily dwellings subject to the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act, and the technical specifications contained in the Guidelines.

Section 1: Dwellings Subject to the New Construction Requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
The issues addressed in this section concern the types of multifamily dwellings (or portions of such dwellings) designed and constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 that must comply with the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act.


  1. Townhouses
    1. Q. Are townhouses in non-elevator buildings which have individual exterior entrances required to be accessible?
      A. Yes, if they are single-story townhouses. If they are multistory townhouses, accessibility is not required. (See the discussion of townhouses in the preamble to the Guidelines under "Section 2--Definitions [Covered Multifamily Dwellings]" at 56 FR 9481, March 6, 1991, or 24 CFR Ch. I, Subch. A, App. III.)

    2. Q. Does the Fair Housing Act cover four one-story dwelling units that share common walls and have individual entrances?
      A. Yes. The Fair Housing Act applies to all units in buildings consisting of four or more dwelling units if such buildings have one or more elevators; and ground floor dwelling units in other buildings consisting of four or more dwelling units. This would include one-story homes, sometimes called "single-story townhouses," "villas," or "patio apartments," regardless of ownership, even though such homes may not be considered multifamily dwellings under various building codes.

    3. Q. What if the single-story dwelling units are separated by firewalls?
      A. The Fair Housing Act would still apply. The Guidelines define covered multifamily dwellings to include buildings having four or more units within a single structure separated by firewalls.

  2. Commercial Space
    If a building includes three residential dwelling units and one or more commercial spaces, is the building a "covered multifamily dwelling" under the Fair Housing Act?
    A. No. Covered multifamily dwellings are buildings consisting of four or more dwelling units, if such buildings have one or more elevators; and ground floor dwelling units in other buildings consisting of four or more dwelling units. Commercial space does not meet the definition of "dwelling unit." Note, however, that title III of the ADA applies to public accommodations and commercial facilities, therefore an independent determination should be made regarding applicability of the ADA to the commercial space in such a building (see the introduction to these questions and answers, which provides some background on the ADA).

  3. Condominiums
    1. Q. Are condominiums covered by the Fair Housing Act?
      A. Yes. Condominiums in covered multifamily dwellings are covered by the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act makes no distinctions based on ownership.

    2. Q. If a condominium is pre-sold as a shell and the interior is designed and constructed by the buyer, are the Guidelines applicable?
      A. Yes. The Fair Housing Act applies to design and construction of covered multifamily dwellings, regardless of whether the person doing the design and construction is an architect, builder, or private individual. (See discussion of condominiums in the preamble to Guidelines under "Section 2-- Definitions [Dwelling Units]" at 56 FR 9481, March 6, 1991, or 24 CFR Ch. I, Subch. A, App. III.)

  4. Additions
    1. Q. If an owner adds four or more dwelling units to an existing building, are those units covered by the Fair Housing Act?
      A. Yes, provided that the units constitute a new addition to the building and not substantial rehabilitation of existing units.

    2. Q. What if new public and common use spaces are also being added?
      A. If new public and common use areas or buildings are also added, they are required to be accessible.

    3. Q. If the only new construction is an addition consisting of four or more dwelling units, would the existing public and common use spaces have to be made accessible?
      A. No, existing public and common use areas would not have to be made accessible. The Fair Housing Act applies to new construction of covered multifamily dwellings. (See section 804(f)(3)(C)(i) of the Act.) Existing public and common use facilities are not newly constructed portions of covered multifamily dwellings. However, reasonable modifications to the existing public and common use areas to provide access would have to be allowed, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may apply to certain public and common use areas. An independent determination should be made regarding applicability of the ADA. (See the introduction to these questions and answers, which provides some background on the ADA.)

  5. Units Over Parking
    1. Q. Plans for a three-story building consist of a common parking area with assigned stalls on grade as the first story, and two stories of single-story dwelling units stacked over the parking. All of the stories above the parking level are to be accessed by stairways. There are no elevators planned to be in the building. Would the first story of single-story dwelling units over the parking level be required to be accessible?
      A. Yes. The Guidelines adopt and amplify the definition of "ground floor" found in HUD's regulation implementing the Fair Housing Act (see 24 CFR 100.201) to indicate that ". . .where the first floor containing dwelling units is above grade, all units on that floor must be served by a building entrance on an accessible route. This floor will be considered to be a ground floor." (See definition of "ground floor" in the Guidelines at 24 CFR Ch. I, Subch. A, App. II, Section 2.) Where no dwelling units in a covered multifamily dwelling are located on grade, the first floor with dwelling units will be considered to be a ground floor, and must be served by a building entrance on an accessible route. However, the definition of "ground floor" does not require that there be more than one ground floor.

    2. Q. If a building design contains a mix of single-story flats on grade and single-story flats located above grade over a public parking area, do the flats over the parking area have to be accessible?
      A. No. In the example in the above question, because some single-story flats are situated on grade, these flats would be the ground floor dwelling units and would be required to be accessible. The definition of ground floor in the Guidelines states, in part, that "ground floor means a floor of a building with a building entrance on an accessible route. A building may have one or more ground floors. . ." Thus, the definition includes situations where the design plan is such that more than one floor of a building may be accessed by means of an accessible route (for an example, see Question 6, which follows). There is no requirement in the Department's regulations implementing the Fair Housing Act that there be more than one ground floor.

  6. More Than One Ground Floor
    If a two or three story building is to be constructed on a slope, such that the lowest story can be accessed on grade on one side of the building and the second story can be accessed on grade on the other side of the building, do the dwelling units on both the first and second stories have to be made accessible?
    A. Yes. By defining "ground floor" to be any floor of a building with an accessible entrance on an accessible route, the Fair Housing Act regulations recognize that certain buildings, based on the site and the design plan, have more than one story which can be accessed at or near grade. In such cases, if more than one story can be designed to have an accessible entrance on an accessible route, then all such stories should be so designed. Each story becomes a ground floor and the dwelling units on that story must meet the accessibility requirements of the Act. (See the discussion on this issue in Question 12 of this document.)

  7. Continuing Care Facilities
    Do the new construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act apply to continuing care facilities which incorporate housing, health care and other types of services?
    A. The new construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act would apply to continuing care facilities if the facility includes at least one building with four or more dwelling units. Whether a facility is a "dwelling" under the Act depends on whether the facility is to be used as a residence for more than a brief period of time. As a result, the operation of each continuing care facility must be examined on a case-by-case basis to determine whether it contains dwellings. Factors that the Department will consider in making such an examination include, but are not limited to:

    1. the length of time persons stay in the project;

    2. whether policies are in effect at the project that are designed and intended to encourage or discourage occupants from forming an expectation and intent to continue to occupy space at the project; and

    3. the nature of the services provided by or at the project.

  8. Evidence of First Occupancy
    The Fair Housing Act applies to covered multifamily dwellings built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991. What is acceptable evidence of "first occupancy"?
    A. The determination of first occupancy is made on a building by building basis. The Fair Housing Act regulations provide that "covered multifamily dwellings shall be deemed to be designed and constructed for first occupancy on or before March 13, 1991 (and therefore exempt from the Act's accessibility requirements) if they are occupied by that date or if the last building permit or renewal thereof for the covered multifamily dwellings is issued by a State, county or local government on or before June 15, 1990."

    For buildings that did not obtain the final building permit on or before June 15, 1990, proof of the date of first occupancy consists of (1) a certificate of occupancy, and (2) a showing that at least one dwelling unit in the building actually was occupied by March 13, 1991. For example, a tenant has signed a lease and has taken possession of a unit. The tenant need not have moved into the unit, but the tenant must have taken possession so that, if desired, he or she could have moved into the building by March 13, 1991. For dwelling units that were for sale, this means that the new owner had completed settlement and taken possession of the dwelling unit by March 13, 1991. Once again, the new owner need not have moved in, but the owner must have been in possession of the unit and able to move in, if desired, on or before March 13, 1991. A certificate of occupancy alone would not be an acceptable means of establishing first occupancy, and units offered for sale, but not sold, would not meet the test for first occupancy.

  9. Converted Buildings
    If a building was used previously for a nonresidential purpose, such as a warehouse, office building, or school, and is being converted to a multifamily dwelling, must the building meet the requirements of the Fair Housing Act?
    A. No, the Fair Housing Act applies to "covered multifamily dwellings for first occupancy after" March 13, 1991, and the Fair Housing Act regulation defines "first occupancy" as "a building that has never before been used for any purpose." (See 24 CFR 100.201, for the definition of "first occupancy," and also 24 CFR Ch. I, Subch. A, App. I.)

    Section 2: Accessibility Guidelines.
    The issues addressed in this section concern the technical specifications set forth in the Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines.

    Requirement 1 -- Accessible Entrance on an Accessible Route

  10. Accessible Routes to Garages
    1. Q. Is it necessary to have an accessible path of travel from a subterranean garage to single-story covered multifamily dwellings built on top of the garage?
      A. Yes. The Fair Housing Act requires that there be an accessible building entrance on an accessible route. To satisfy Requirement 1 of the Guidelines, there would have to be an accessible route leading to grade level entrances serving the single-story dwelling units from a public street or sidewalk or other pedestrian arrival point. The below grade parking garage is a public and common use facility. Therefore, there must also be an accessible route from this parking area to the covered dwelling units. This may be provided either by a properly sloped ramp leading from the below grade parking to grade level, or by means of an elevator from the parking garage to the dwelling units.

    2. Q. Does the route leading from inside a private attached garage to the dwelling unit have to be accessible?
      A. No. Under Requirement 1 of the Guidelines, there must be an accessible entrance to the dwelling unit on an accessible route. However, this route and entrance need not originate inside the garage. Most units with attached garages have a separate main entry, and this would be the entrance required to be accessible. Thus, if there were one or two steps inside the garage leading into the unit, there would be no requirement to put a ramp in place of the steps. However, the door connecting the garage and dwelling unit would have to meet the requirements for usable doors.

  11. Site Impracticality Tests
    1. Q. Under the individual building test, how is the second step of the test performed, which involves measuring the slope of the finished grade between the entrance and applicable arrival points?
      A. The slope is measured at ground level from the entrance to the top of the pavement of all vehicular and pedestrian arrival points within 50 feet of the planned entrance, or, if there are none within 50 feet, the vehicular or pedestrian arrival point closest to the planned entrance.

    2. Q. Under the individual building test, at what point of the planned entrance is the measurement taken?
      A. On a horizontal plane, the center of each individual doorway should be the point of measurement when measuring to an arrival point, whether the doorway is an entrance door to the building or an entrance door to a unit.

    3. Q. The site analysis test calls for a calculation of the percentage of the buildable areas having slopes of less than 10 percent. What is the definition of "buildable areas"?
      A. The "buildable area" is any area of the lot or site where a building can be located in compliance with applicable codes and zoning regulations.

  12. Second Ground Floors
    1. Q. The Department's regulation for the Fair Housing Act provides that there can be more than one ground floor in a covered multifamily dwelling (such as a three-story building built on a slope with three stories at and above grade in front and two stories at grade in back). How is the individual building test performed for additional stories, to determine if those stories must also be treated as "ground floors"?
      For purposes of determining whether a non-elevator building has more than one ground floor, the point of measurement for additional ground floors, after the first ground floor has been established, is at the center of the entrance (building entrance for buildings with one or more common entrance and each dwelling unit entrance for buildings with separate ground floor unit entrances) at floor level for that story.

    2. Q. What happens if a builder deliberately manipulates the grade so that a second story, which also might have been treated as a ground floor, requires steps?
      A. Deliberate manipulation of the height of the finished floor level to avoid the requirements of the Fair Housing Act would serve as a basis for the Department to determine that there is reasonable cause to believe that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred.

    Requirement 2 -- Public and Common Use Areas

  13. No Covered Dwellings
    Are the public and common use areas of a newly constructed development that consists entirely of buildings having four or more multistory townhouses, with no elevators, required to be accessible?
    A. No. The Fair Housing Act applies only to new construction of covered multifamily dwellings. Multistory townhouses, provided that they meet the definition of "multistory" in the Guidelines, are not covered multifamily dwellings if the building does not have an elevator. (See discussion of townhouses in the preamble to the Guidelines under "Section 2--Definitions [Covered Multifamily Dwellings]" at 56 FR 9481, March 6, 1991, or 24 CFR Ch. I, Subch. A, App. III.) If there are no covered multifamily dwellings on a site, then the public and common use areas of the site are not required to be accessible. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may apply to certain public and common use areas. Again, an independent determination should be made regarding applicability of the ADA. (See the introduction to these questions and answers, which provides some background on the ADA.)

  14. Parking Spaces and Garages
    1. Q. How many resident parking spaces must be made accessible at the time of construction?
      A. The Guidelines provide that a minimum of two percent of the parking spaces serving covered dwelling units be made accessible and located on an accessible route to wheelchair users. Also, if a resident requests an accessible space, additional accessible parking spaces would be necessary if the two percent are already reserved.

    2. Q. If both open and covered parking spaces are provided, how many of each type must be accessible?
      A. The Guidelines require that accessible parking be provided for residents with disabilities on the same terms and with the full range of choices, e.g., surface parking or garage, that are provided for other residents of the project. Thus, if a project provides different types of parking such as surface parking, garage, or covered spaces, some of each must be made accessible. While the total parking spaces required to be accessible is only two percent, at least one space for each type of parking should be made accessible even if this number exceeds two percent.

    3. Q. If a project having covered multifamily dwellings provides parking garages where there are several individual garages grouped together either in a separate area of the building (such as at one end of the building, or in a detached building), for assignment or rental to residents, are there any requirements for the inside dimensions of these individual parking garages?
      A. Yes. These garages would be public and common use space, even though the individual garages may be assigned to a particular dwelling unit. Therefore, at least two percent of the garages should be at least 14' 2" wide and the vehicular door should be at least 10'-0" wide.

    4. Q. If a covered multifamily dwelling has a below grade common use parking garage, is there a requirement for a vertical clearance to allow vans to park?
      A. This issue was addressed in the preamble to the Guidelines, but continues to be a frequently asked question. (See the preamble to the Guidelines under the discussion of "Section 5--Guidelines for Requirement 2" at 56 FR 9486, March 6, 1991, or 24 CFR Ch. I, Subch. A, App. III.) In response to comments from the public that the Guidelines for parking specify minimum vertical clearance for garage parking, the Department responded:


      No national accessibility standards, including UFAS, require particular vertical clearances in parking garages. The Department did not consider it appropriate to exceed commonly accepted standards by including a minimum vertical clearance in the Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines, in view of the minimal accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act.


    Since the Guidelines refer to ANSI A117.1 1986 for the standards to follow for public and common use areas, and since the ANSI does not include a vertical clearance for garage parking, the Guidelines likewise do not. (Note: UFAS is the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standard.)

  15. Public Telephones
    If a covered multifamily dwelling has public telephones in the lobby, what are the requirements for accessibility for these telephones?
    A. The requirements governing public telephones are found in Item #14, "Common use spaces and facilities," in the chart under Requirement 2 of the Guidelines. While the chart does not address the quantity of accessible public telephones, at a minimum, at least one accessible telephone per bank of telephones would be required. The specifications at ANSI 4.29 would apply.

    Requirement 3 -- Usable Doors

  16. Required Width
    Will a standard hung 32-inch door provide sufficient clear width to meet the requirements of the Fair Housing Act?
    No, a 32-inch door would not provide a sufficient clear opening to meet the requirement for usable doors. A notation in the Guidelines for Requirement 3 indicates that a 34-inch door, hung in the standard manner, provides an acceptable nominal 32- inch clear opening.

  17. Maneuvering Clearances and Hardware
    Is it correct that only the exterior side of the main entry door of covered multifamily dwellings must meet the ANSI requirements?
    A. Yes. The exterior side of the main entry door is part of the public and common use areas and therefore must meet ANSI A117.1 1986 specifications for doors. These specifications include necessary maneuvering clearances and accessible door hardware. The interior of the main entry door is part of the dwelling unit and only needs to meet the requirements for usable doors within the dwelling intended for user passage, i.e., at least 32 inches nominal clear width, with no requirements for maneuvering clearances and hardware. (See 56 FR 9487-9488, March 6, 1991, or 24 CFR Ch. I, Subch. A, App. III.)

  18. Doors to Inaccessible Areas
    Is it necessary to provide usable doors when the door leads to an area of the dwelling that is not accessible, such as the door leading down to an unfinished basement, or the door connecting a single-story dwelling with an attached garage? (In the latter case, there is a separate entrance door to the unit which is accessible.)
    A. Yes. Within the dwelling unit, doors intended for user passage through the unit must meet the requirements for usable doors. Such doors would have to provide at least 32 inches nominal clear width when the door is open 90 degrees, measured between the face of the door and the stop. This will ensure that, if a wheelchair user occupying the dwelling unit chooses to modify the unit to provide accessibility to these areas, such as installing a ramp from the dwelling unit into the garage, the door will be sufficiently wide to allow passage. It also will allow passage for people using walkers or crutches.

    Requirement 4 -- Accessible Route Into and Through the Unit

  19. Sliding Door
    If a sliding door track has a threshold of 3/4", does this trigger requirements for ramps?
    A. No. The Guidelines at Requirement 4 provide that thresholds at doors, including sliding door tracks, may be no higher than 3/4" and must be beveled with a slope no greater than 1:2.

  20. Private Attached Garages
    If a covered multifamily dwelling has an individual, private garage which is attached to and serves only that dwelling, does the garage have to be accessible in terms of width and length?
    A. Garages attached to and which serve only one covered multifamily dwelling are part of that dwelling unit, and are not covered by Requirement 2 of the Guidelines, which addresses accessible and usable public and common use space. Because such individual garages attached to and serving only one covered multifamily dwelling typically are not finished living space, the garage is not required to be accessible in terms of width or length. The answer to this question should be distinguished from the answer to Question 14(c). Question 14(c) addresses parking garages where there are several garages or stalls located together, either in a separate, detached building, or in a central area of the building, such as at one end. These types of garages are not attached to, and do not serve, only one unit and are therefore considered public and common use garages.

  21. Split-Level Entry
    Is a dwelling unit that has a split entry foyer, with the foyer and living room on an accessible route and the remainder of the unit down two steps, required to be accessible if it is a ground floor unit in a covered multifamily dwelling?
    A. Yes. Under Requirement 4, there must be an accessible route into and through the dwelling unit. This would preclude a split level foyer, unless a properly sloped ramp can be provided.

    Requirement 5 -- Environmental Controls

  22. Range Hood Fans
    Must the switches on range hood kitchen ventilation fans be in accessible locations?
    A. No. Kitchen ventilation fans located on a range hood are considered to be part of the appliance. The Fair Housing Act has no requirements for appliances in the interiors of dwelling units, or the switches that operate them. (See "Guidelines for Requirement 5" and "Controls for Ranges and Cooktops" at 56 FR 9490 and 9492, March 6, 1991, or 24 CFR Ch. I, Subch. A, App. III.)

    Requirement 6 -- Reinforced Walls for Grab Bars

  23. Type of Reinforcement
    What type of reinforcement should be used to reinforce bathroom walls for the later installation of grab bars?
    A. The Guidelines do not prescribe the type of material to use or method of providing reinforcement for bathroom walls. The Guidelines recognize that grab bar reinforcing may be accomplished in a variety of ways, such as by providing plywood panels in the areas illustrated in the Guidelines under Requirement 6, or by installing vertical reinforcement in the form of double studs at the points noted on the figures in the Guidelines. The builder/owners should maintain records that reflect the placement of the reinforcing material, for later reference by a resident who wishes to install a grab bar.

  24. Type of Grab Bar
    What types of grab bars should the reinforcement be designed to accommodate and what types may be used if the builder elects to install grab bars in some units at the time of construction?
    A. The Guidelines do not prescribe the type of product for grab bars, or the structural strength for grab bars. The Guidelines only state that the necessary reinforcement must be placed "so as to permit later installation of appropriate grab bars." (Emphasis added.) In determining what is an appropriate grab bar, builders are encouraged to look to the 1986 ANSI A117.1 standard, the standard cited in the Fair Housing Act. Builders also may follow State or local standards in planning for or selecting appropriate grab bars.

    Requirement 7 -- Usable Kitchens and Bathrooms

  25. Counters and Vanities
    It appears from Figure 2(c) of the Guidelines (under Requirement 5) that there is a 34 inch height requirement for kitchen counters and vanities. Is this true?
    A. No. Requirement 7 addresses the requirement for usable kitchens and bathrooms so that a person in a wheelchair can maneuver about the space. The legislative history of the Fair Housing Act makes it clear that the Congress intended that the Act affect ability to maneuver within the space of the kitchen and bathroom, but not to require fixtures, cabinetry or plumbing of adjustable design. Figure 2(c) of the Guidelines is illustrating the maximum side reach range over an obstruction. Because the picture was taken directly from the ANSI A117.1 1986 standard, the diagram also shows the height of the obstruction, which, in this picture, is a countertop. This 34 inch height, however, should not be regarded as a requirement.

  26. Showers
    Is a parallel approach required at the shower, as shown in Figure 7(d) of the Guidelines?
    A. Yes. For a 36" x 36" shower, as shown in Figure 7(d), a person in a wheelchair would typically add a wall hung seat. Thus the parallel approach as shown in Figure 7(d) is essential in order to be able to transfer from the wheelchair to the shower seat.

  27. Tub Controls
    Do the Guidelines set any requirements for the type or location of bathtub controls?
    A. No, except where the specifications in Requirement 7(2)(b) are used. In that case, while the type of control is not specified, the control must be located as shown in Figure 8 of the Guidelines.

  28. Paragraph (b) Bathrooms
    If an architect or builder chooses to follow the bathroom specifications in Requirement 7, Guideline 2, paragraph (b), where at least one bathroom is designed to comply with the provisions of paragraph (b), are the other bathrooms in the dwelling unit required to have reinforced walls for grab bars?
    A. Yes. Requirement 6 of the Guidelines requires reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars. Even though Requirement 6 was not repeated under Requirement 7--Guideline 2, it is a separate requirement which must be met in all bathrooms. The same would be true for other Requirements in the Guidelines, such as Requirement 5, which applies to usable light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls; Requirement 4 for accessible route; and Requirement 3 for usable doors.

  29. Bathroom Clear Floor Space
    Is it acceptable to design a bathroom with an in- swinging 2'10" door which can be retrofitted to swing out in order to provide the necessary clear floor space in the bathroom?
    A. No. The requirements in the Guidelines must be included at the time of construction. Thus, for a bathroom, there must be sufficient maneuvering space and clear floor space so that a person using a wheelchair or other mobility aid can enter and close the door, use the fixtures and exit.

  30. Lavatories
    Would it be acceptable to use removable base cabinets beneath a wall-hung lavatory where a parallel approach is not possible?
    A. Yes. The space under and around the cabinet should be finished prior to installation. For example, the tile or other floor finish must extend under the removable base cabinet.

  31. Wing Walls
    Can a water closet (toilet) be located in an alcove with a wing wall?
    A. Yes, as long as the necessary clear floor space shown in Figure 7(a) is provided. This would mean that the wing wall could not extend beyond the front edge of a lavatory located on the other side of the wall from the water closet.

  32. Penalties
    What types of penalties or monetary damages will be assessed if covered multifamily dwellings are found not to be in compliance with the Fair Housing Act?
    A. Under the Fair Housing Act, if an administrative law judge finds that a respondent has engaged in or is about to engage in a discriminatory housing practice, the administrative law judge will order appropriate relief. Such relief may include actual and compensatory damages, injunctive or other equitable relief, attorney's fees and costs, and may also include civil penalties ranging from $10,000 for the first offense to $50,000 for repeated offenses. In addition, in the case of buildings which have been completed, structural changes could be ordered, and an escrow fund might be required to finance future changes.

    Further, a Federal district court judge can order similar relief plus punitive damages as well as civil penalties for up to $100,000 in an action brought by a private individual or by the U.S. Department of Justice.

2.2. Accessible and Universal Design Resources

Information about guidelines, resources, compainies and house plans can be found at this site:

2.3. Ten Myths about Universal Design

Ten Myths about Universal Design (see downloadable file below) is written by Rosemarie Rosetti, Ph.D.  Rosemarie has built a national model universal design home in metropolitan Columbus, Ohio. To learn more about the Universal Design Living Laboratory go to:

Contact Rosemarie with your ideas for future articles, questions, and accessible home problems she can solve at:

2.4. Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards

This document provides information about the sets standards for facility accessibility by physically handicapped persons for Federal and federally-funded facilities. Read these standards.

2.5. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Requirements

Information about the ADA Accessibility Guidelines and Standards.  

3. Housing Contacts and Resources

3.1. HOPE NOW- Support and Guidance for Homeowners

Are you having trouble paying your mortgage? Call the Homeowner's HOPE Hotline at 1-888-995-4673.

3.2. Disability Information - Housing

Disability Information on Housing

3.3. Elderly or Disabled Living

Elderly or Disabled Living

As a nonprofit 501c3 charity, EDL's mission is to reduce costs associated with housing. We specifically provide help to lower income elderly or disabled individuals. EDL is not a home care facility though. Our nonprofit has many cost reducing techniques available to us. EDL's service includes but isn't limited to monetary assistance (e.g. the following is not a exclusive list): Dr. bills, cable, internet, health insurance, car payment, electric, rent, and mortgage

3.4. SCI Housing Articles and Resources

Resources and Articles about SCI 

3.5. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Information Line

The U.S. Department of Justice provides information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) through a toll-free ADA Information Line. This service permits businesses, State and local governments, or others to call and ask questions about general or specific ADA requirements including questions about the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

ADA specialists are available Monday through Friday from 9:30 AM until 5:30 PM (eastern time) except on Thursday when the hours are 12:30 PM until 5:30 PM.

Spanish language service is also available.

For general ADA information, answers to specific technical questions, free ADA materials, or information about filing a complaint, call:

800 - 514 - 0301 (voice)

800 - 514 - 0383 (TTY)

3.6. Speak with a Housing Counselor

HUD sponsors housing counseling agencies throughout the country that can provide advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, credit issues, and reverse mortgages. Find your local agency.

3.7. US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Directory

HUD's Headquarters Organizational Directory  

3.8. Filing a Complaint with the US Department of Housing & Urban Development


The following is an overview of how HUD processes complaints filed by individuals who have experienced disability discrimination under the law called Section 504. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects you from discrimination in HUD-funded programs for which you qualify, and is commonly called "Section 504." This overview of the Section 504 complaint process contains citations to 24 CFR 8.1-8.58. These are references to specific sections of the Code of Federal Regulations that contain HUD's regulations for Section 504. These HUD regulations set forth more specific rules with respect to how Section 504 applies to various HUD-assisted programs.

What is a Complaint?

A complaint is a communication alleging discrimination on the basis of disability and in some way asking for HUD's assistance in resolving the problem. It may range from a verbal communication (which is later put in writing) to a complaint submitted on either the old HUD-903 Complaint Form, or on the new HUD Housing Discrimination Information Form. The complaint should contain:

  • the complainant's name and address;

  • the name and address of the individual or organization (usually the recipient of federal assistance) alleged to have discriminated; and

  • a description of the discriminatory actions and the date of those actions. [24 CFR 8.56(c)(5)]

The complaint may be amended fairly and reasonably at any time to clarify or amplify the allegation. [24 CFR 8.56(c)(6)]

Although a complaint will contain the name of the complainant, HUD will keep the identity of the complainant confidential unless it has written authorization from the complainant to release it, or except as necessary to carry out the purpose of the Section 504 regulations, including the enforcement provisions. [(24 CFR 8.56(c)(2)]

When Must a Complaint be Filed?

Under Section 504, a complaint must be filed within 180 days of the alleged act of discrimination unless HUD waives this time limit for good cause shown. The complaint is deemed received on the date HUD actually receives it or, if mailed, on the date it is postmarked. [24 CFR 8.56(c)(3)]

Who May File a Complaint?

Any individual who believes he or she has been discriminated against on the basis of disability by a recipient of Federal financial assistance, his or her representative, or a member of a class of persons so situated, or the authorized representative of a member of that class. [24 CFR 8.56(c)(1)]

Who is an Individual with Disabilities?

An individual with disabilities means any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment. [24 CFR 8.3]

Where May a Complaint be Filed?

A complaint may be filed by mail with HUD Headquarters or with any HUD Office. [24 CFR 8.56(c)(4)] A complaint may also be filed online.

Notification to Parties

Within ten days of receipt, HUD will notify the complainant and the recipient that it has received the complaint. [24 CFR 8.56(d)]

Accepting the Complaint

Within twenty days of acknowledging its receipt of a complaint, HUD must determine whether it will accept, reject, or refer the complaint to another Federal agency, and must notify the parties of that decision. [24 CFR 8.56(e)(1)(i)]
To do so, HUD must determine if it has jurisdiction over the complaint.

Does HUD have Jurisdiction?

HUD considers several factors in determining if it has jurisdiction to investigate the complaint. HUD must determine if the complainant or the person he or she represents is a person the law was designed to protect. In making this determination, the Department must determine whether the individual, or the person the individual represents, is a person with a disability as defined by Section 504. The Department also must determine if the individual is "otherwise qualified" for the program or activity alleged to have discriminated. For most HUD-assisted programs, an individual must have income below a certain level in order to be eligible. In some cases, disability may also be an eligibility factor. For example, if a housing program is set up under the Department's Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program, and the complainant's only disability is a visual impairment, the person would not be qualified for the HOPWA project because that project is designed to meet the needs of persons with AIDS. Therefore, HUD would lack jurisdiction to process this complaint under Section 504.

Another factor HUD must consider in determining jurisdiction is whether the alleged act of discrimination occurred in a program, service or activity that receives Federal financial assistance from HUD for the period during which the act occurred. If both of these conditions are not met, HUD must reject the complaint and notify the complainant and the recipient of that decision. For example, if a privately owned apartment building received HUD funds only during the period from January 1989 to June 1990, and the alleged act of discrimination occurred in February 1988, HUD would lack jurisdiction.

If HUD has jurisdiction over the case, then HUD will accept the complaint for investigation.

Notification of the Parties and the Recipient's Opportunity to Respond

Once the complaint has been accepted for investigation, HUD will notify the complainant, the award official, and the recipient of its acceptance. HUD will also notify the recipient of the allegations and provide an opportunity for a written response to the allegations within thirty days of receiving the notice. (Like the complaint, the recipient's response may be amended for good cause at any time. [24 CFR 8.56(e)(1)(ii)]

Voluntary Resolution of the Issues

During its investigation of the complaint, HUD will make every effort to define all of the issues contained in the complaint. Throughout the complaint process, HUD will encourage a voluntary resolution of the matter, and will assist the parties in resolving the complaint through informal resolution or voluntary compliance. A matter may be resolved by informal means at any time. If the Department has issued a letter finding noncompliance, the Department will attempt to resolve the issues through voluntary compliance. The Department will develop a written voluntary compliance agreement and will attempt to reach a resolution that satisfies the complainant, however, the Department's primary obligation will be to ensure that any violations of Section 504 are remedied and that actions are taken to ensure that the recipient will not violate the rights of other persons under Section 504. [24 CFR 8.56(j)]

The Investigation

During the complaint investigation, the Department will request all of the information that the Department believes is necessary in order to fully investigate the issues in the complaint. The complaint investigation will involve interviews and meetings with the parties, including any witnesses or other persons identified as having some involvement in the issues of the complaint. The Department may also conduct on-site reviews of facilities that are under the recipient's oversight, if these facilities are a part of the complaint. [24 CFR 8.56(d) and (e)] Once the complaint investigation is completed, the Department will compile all of its findings in a Final Investigative Report (FIR).

Preliminary Letter of Findings and Right to Request a Review

If an informal resolution of the complaint is not achieved, the Department will issue a "Preliminary Letter of Findings." This letter will contain the preliminary findings of fact, and a preliminary finding of compliance or noncompliance. If the finding is noncompliance, the Preliminary Letter of Findings will include a description of each violation and an appropriate remedy. It also explains that a copy of the Final Investigative Report will be made available upon request to the recipient. A copy of the letter should also be sent to the complainant. [24 CFR 8.56(g)] This letter will also notify both parties that they have the right to request a complete review of the letter of findings, provided that such request is submitted within 30 days of receipt of the Letter of Findings, and that the request includes a written description of supplementary information that was not considered during the investigation of the complaint. [24 CFR 8.56(h)]

The Preliminary Letter of Findings may also include a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) outlining all steps necessary, along with timelines, on the part of the recipient to remedy the identified violations and bring the recipient into compliance. If the recipient agrees to the VCA and signs it, HUD will not proceed with enforcement activities. [24 CFR 8.56(j)]

Formal Determination

If a request for review is made, it must be accompanied by a written statement of the reasons the Preliminary Letter of Findings should be modified in light of supplementary information, as explained above. [24 CFR 8.56(h)] When a request for review is received from either party, a copy of it will be sent to the other party with notice of their right to respond to the request within twenty days. [24 CFR 8.56(h)(2)] Within sixty days of the request for review, the reviewing civil rights official will issue its formal determination, either sustaining or modifying the letter of findings. This decision will constitute HUD's formal determination. [24 CFR 8.56(h)(3)]

If neither party requests a review of the Letter of Findings, the Department will issue a formal determination within 14 calendar days after the 30-day time period under which such a request may be made. The formal determination will indicate compliance or noncompliance, and HUD will send this determination to the recipient, the complainant and the award official. [24 CFR 8.56(h)(4)]

The Department wishes to emphasize that throughout the complaint process, all efforts will be made to reach a voluntary resolution of the matter. However, in cases of a determination of noncompliance, once the formal Letter of Determination has been issued, the recipient will have ten (10) calendar days in which to agree to come into voluntary compliance. If the recipient fails to meet this deadline, the Department will initiate enforcement proceedings under the procedures outlined at 24 CFR 8.57. [24 CFR 8.56(i)]

3.9. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services

Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services 

3.10. Fair Housing Information

Access your local HUD information

Learn about housing discrimination for people with disabilities 



4. Long Term Care

4.1. Medicare Provider Search

Medicare/Medicaid provider search-searchable database of nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilation facilities, home care and hospice providers with quality-measure indicators on a 1 to 5 star ranking system.

4.2. Search for long term care in California (only)

Cal Quality Care - a guide to long term care in California

5. Additional Housing Resources

5.1. Fulfilling the American Dream: A Guide for Disabled Homebuyers

Fulfilling the American Dream: A Guide for Disabled Homebuyers

Having a home to call one's own is a giant milestone millions of Americans strive to achieve. Becoming a homeowner brings with it a sense of pride and accomplishment, but the process of becoming one can be intimidating. This is especially true for those with physical or emotional disabilities wishing to attain homeownership.

In fact, the federal government has established several laws and administrations for the sole purpose of protecting your rights as a disabled homebuyer, no matter the nature of your disability. This guide is designed to be a tool to assist those fearing their disability may become a factor in making the home buying experience more cumbersome. You will find information on what your rights are, resources to aid you in understanding the procedures involved in acquiring a home, and advice on how to proceed if you feel your rights have been dishonored. Additionally, you will find resources to make the most of the opportunities available to you for purchasing a home, whether your plans are to purchase your first house or to relocate from your current residence to your dream home.

Your Rights as a Homebuyer

For the purposes of enforcing nondiscrimination laws, the government defines a disability as a physical or mental condition that impacts a person's ability to function in one or more major life activities, such as walking, driving or even breathing. The following resources provide valuable information on the rules and organizations that are designed to ensure that your rights as a homebuyer are clearly defined and protected under federal law.

Under the Fair Housing Act, discrimination against a potential homebuyer based on his or her disability is illegal. This website offers information on how applicants with physical or emotional disabilities have the same rights to the home buying process and the purchase of a residence as someone who does not.

The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) was established to enforce the rights of any homebuyer, including those who are physically or mentally disabled. They provide financial assistance to state and local agencies that have a proven record of enforcing fair housing practices to further protect homebuyers from discrimination.

Regulation B, which was developed by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to support the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, is designed to grant the right to credit lending regardless of factors such as race, age, or disability status. Regulation B also provides the rights of applicants to receive information on the status changes of an application and criteria used to come to a determination of the approval or decline of a loan.

A housing provider is prohibited from creating extra criteria for a potential homebuyer to purchase a home. For example, a seller may not refuse to sell a dwelling to someone with a disability, nor can they tack on extra fees or extend the waiting period for the purchase of the home.

You have a right to sturdy, accessible housing, even if you are physically impaired. The Fair Housing Act requires that any multi-family housing built after March 13, 1991, include certain features ensuring accessibility and safety for residents of the home, including those who have a physical disability. These attributes include accessible routes and entryways into the home, such as ramps and doorways to accommodate wheelchairs; reinforced bathroom walls for the secure installation of hand bars; and electrical outlets and switches located in reachable areas for those who are dependent on a wheelchair.

Responsibilities of a Mortgage Lender to a Homebuyer

When buying a home, many people choose to borrow a majority of the funds from a lending institution, such as a bank or credit union, and make an initial down payment for a percentage of the purchase price with money they have saved on their own. There are three basic steps that will occur when you inquire about or apply for a mortgage:

  • The lender will run a credit check.
  • The lender will determine how much you are eligible to borrow.
  • The lender will assist you in applying for the loan, should you choose to do so.

The following resources provide helpful information on what the mortgage process involves, and what the mortgage lender's responsibilities are to uphold your rights as a disabled homebuyer.

A lender cannot discourage an applicant from applying for a loan based on a disability, nor can they alter the terms or conditions of a loan for this reason (such as increasing an interest rate or requested down payment amount). The lender may also not deny a loan for this reason alone.

Section 504 of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states that no one should be discriminated against simply due to the fact that he or she has a mental or physical disability. This includes a person's right to apply for a loan, the documentation requested from an individual in the loan application process, and the decision of approving or declining a loan application.

A lender must consider any public assistance income the same way they would consider any other source of income. The lender has the right to request information on any assistance from the Social Security Administration if you ask for it to be considered as part of your income on your loan application. However, unless the information provided by the Social Security Administration identifies an exact date when your benefit will expire, the lender must assume that the benefit will be continuous.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits acts that discriminate against disabled homebuyers, including the refusal to sell or negotiate for housing or be dishonest about available housing. This resource provides information on what kind of housing the FHA covers, and the actions of a seller that are restricted by law.

What to Do if You Feel Your Rights Have Been Violated

There are severe consequences for lending companies or individuals who violate the rights of homebuyers with disabilities. The Department of Justice considers this behavior a serious offense, and there are many channels of how to report this type of discrimination. The following resources provide useful information on the penalties of unlawful behavior by a lender, and ways to report it to an authority.

In 1996, the Department of Justice provided information to federally regulated banks on what constitutes discrimination and how different situations involving discriminatory practices would be handled, either at an administrative or litigation level. This resource provides information on the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the consequences to a lender for not abiding by the guidelines it has set for these institutions to follow.

The Fair Housing Administration (FHA) encourages those who suspect they are being discriminated against as a potential homebuyer to contact HUD. This link provides information on how to reach both of these organizations.

If you decide to pursue legal action against a lender, it may be a good idea to contact your state's attorney general. This link will help you identify and contact the attorney general of your state.

If you feel you are being discriminated against, you can fill out the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form and submit it online or mail it in. This resource also provides information on how to contact your local HUD office directly.

Programs for Assisting Disabled Homebuyers

While purchasing a home may be a daunting process for any potential homebuyer, there are many organizations, programs and specialists who can make the process easier for those with disabilities. The following list provides information on many of the resources available that can help make the dream of owning a home a reality.

It can be beneficial to seek the guidance of a housing counselor if you are disabled and pursuing the purchase of a home. HUD provides this service for free or a very low cost.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which was created to help those in need find affordable homes, has a government-insured loan program with approved lending institutions. These loans are available to qualified disabled homebuyers.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers two different grants to current service members and veterans who have disabilities related to their services in the armed forces, the Specially Adapted Housing Grant and the Special Housing Adaptation Grant. For those who qualify, these can be used for the purchase or construction of a new home, or the modification of a currently owned dwelling.

Habitat for Humanity often builds homes that are affordable for those who are disabled or have a disabled family member.

Disabled World, an online community devoted to sharing helpful information on a variety of topics to those with disabilities, offers a list of programs offered by different states that may be beneficial to disabled homebuyers.

The government offers a housing choice voucher program to assist disabled, low-income and senior citizens acquire safe and affordable homes. This guidebook from HUD explains the program and how to qualify for it.

Additionally, there are many programs available for first-time and low-income homebuyers for which those with disabilities may qualify.

Additional Helpful Resources


There are many aspects to both choosing and buying a home. If you are disabled, there are a few additional details to contemplate. The following resources provide beneficial information on the different facets of purchasing a home, and details on particular considerations for this process if you have a disability.

Before you begin searching for a home, you should have an idea of what you are able to spend on one. This calculator tool will help you determine a home purchase budget.

To successfully apply for a mortgage, it's important to understand your credit score. This resource provides access to a free annual credit report from the three major credit bureaus, which are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

This guide goes into the specific details of what the mortgage loan process entails, including a glossary of terms and information on some of the costs associated with the application and the loan itself.

HUD offers many different housing counseling agencies, with services ranging from budgeting for a home purchase, the lending process, and general homebuyer education. This resource lists HUD-approved housing counseling agencies by state.

It is important to know what questions to ask when you're searching for a home. This resource provides a list of suggested questions you and your realtor should keep in mind when negotiating with sellers or their real estate agents.

Under the Fair Housing Act, you have a right to a safe home that meets certain criteria. The following resources can be used to help you determine the safety of a home you wish to purchase, or the one in which you currently reside:

Your disability should not deter you from reaching your goal of becoming a homeowner. Understanding your rights, knowing what financial opportunities exist, and being aware of what agencies are available to support you in your journey should grant you a sense of empowerment.

5.2. Refinance and Mortgage Guide for Persons Living with a Disability

Refinance & Mortgage Guide for People with Disabilities is an educational tool written to inform persons who are living with a disability, either mental or physical.  This has been prepared by a small group of experienced persons whose backgrounds include finance and/or real estate.  Its intent is to provide clear, concise and easily digestible information that will help you make an informed decision when purchasing or maintaining a home.

5.3. Alternatives to Nursing Home Care

From Medicare.GOV -

Alternatives to Nursing Home Care


Before you make any decisions about long term care, get as much information as you can about where you might live and what help you may need. A nursing home may not be your only choice. Discharge planners and social workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and home health agencies can explain your options and help arrange your care. There are also agencies in your state and community that can help with long-term care choices.

For information about community services, call your local Area Agency on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Center, and Center for Independent Living

For More Information about other Long Term Care Choices, click on the links on the left side of the page.

Note: If you have limited income and resources, there may be state programs that help cover some of your costs in some of these long-term care choices mentioned here. Call your State Medical Assistance Office.


Community Services


There are variety of community services that might help you with your personal care and activities. Some services, like volunteer groups that help with things like shopping or transportation, may be low cost or the group may ask for a voluntary donation. Some services may be available at varied costs depending on where you live and the services you need. Below is a list of home services and programs that are found in many communities:

  • Adult day care
  • Meal programs (like Meals-on-Wheels)
  • Senior centers
  • Friendly visitor programs
  • Help with shopping and transportation
  • Help with legal questions, bill paying, or other other financial matters


Home Care


Depending on your needs, you may be able to get help with your personal activities (such as laundry, shopping, cooking, and cleaning) at home from family members, friends, or volunteer groups.

If you think you need home care, talk to your family to see if they can help with your care or help arrange for other care providers. There are also some home health care agencies that can help with nursing or attendant care in your home.

Medicare only pays for home care if you meet certain conditions. To get a free copy of the Medicare booklet "Medicare and Home Health Care," visit the Medicare Publications tool. You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.


Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)


If you or a loved one owns a single-family home, adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to an existing home may help you keep your independence. An ADU, sometimes called an "in-law apartment," an "accessory apartment," or a "second unit," is a second living space within a home or on a lot. It has a separate living and sleeping area, a place to cook, and a bathroom.

Space such as an upper floor, basement, attic, or space over a garage may be turned into an ADU. Family members might be interested in living in an ADU in your home, or, you may want to build a separate living space at your family member's home.

Check with your local zoning office to be sure ADUs are allowed in your area, and if there are special rules. The cost for an ADU can vary widely depending on how big it is and how much it costs for building materials and workers.


Subsidized Senior Housing


There are Federal and state programs that help pay for housing for some older people with low to moderate incomes. Some of these housing programs also offer help with meals and other activities like housekeeping, shopping, and doing the laundry. Residents usually live in their own apartments in the complex. Rent payments are usually a percentage of your income (a sliding scale).


Board and Care Homes


Board and care homes are group living arrangements designed to meet the needs of people who can't live independently but don't need nursing home services. Most board and care homes provide help with some of the activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and using the bathroom.

Board and care homes are sometimes called "group homes." Many of these homes aren't paid for by Medicare or Medicaid. The monthly charge is usually a percentage of your income (a sliding scale) that covers the cost of rent, meals, and other basic shared services.


Assisted Living Facilities


These facilities provide help with activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, and using the bathroom. They may also help with care most people do themselves like taking medicine or using eye drops and additional services like getting to appointments or preparing meals.

Residents often live in their own room or apartment within a building or group of buildings and have some or all of their meals together. Social and recreational activities are usually provided. Some of these facilities have health services on site.

In most cases, assisted living residents pay a regular monthly rent, and then pay additional fees for the services they get. The term "assisted living" may mean different things in different facilities. Not all assisted living facilities provide the same services. It is important that you contact the facility and make sure they can meet your needs.


Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)


CCRCs are retirement communities that offer more than one kind of housing and different levels of care. In the same community, there may be individual homes or apartments for residents who still live on their own, an assisted living facility for people who need some help with daily care, and a nursing home for those who require more care.

Residents move from one level to another based on their needs, but usually stay within the CCRC. If you are considering a CCRC, be sure to check the nursing home at the CCRC. The nursing home's quality information is on Nursing Home Compare and the nursing home's inspection report should be posted in the nursing home.

Your CCRC contract usually requires you to use the CCRC's nursing home if you need nursing home care. Some CCRC's will only admit people into their nursing home if they have previously lived in another section of the retirement community, such as their assisted living or an independent area.

Many CCRCs generally require a large payment before you move in (called an entry fee) and charge monthly fees. Find out if a CCRC is accredited and get advice on selecting this type of community from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (CARF-CCAC) by calling 1-202-587-5001. You can also visit


Hospice Care


Hospice is a special way of caring for people who are terminally ill (with six months or less to live), and for their families. Hospice care includes physical care and counseling. The goal of hospice is to provide comfort for terminally ill patients and their families, not to cure illness.

If you qualify for hospice care, you can get medical and support services, including nursing care, medical social services, doctor services, counseling, homemaker services, and other types of services. As part of hospice care, you will have a team of doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, counselors and trained volunteers to help you and your family cope with your illness. Depending on your condition, you may get hospice care in a hospice facility, hospital, or nursing home.

  • Respite Care: Some nursing homes and hospice care facilities may provide respite care. Respite care is a very short inpatient stay given to a hospice patient so that the usual caregiver can rest. Medicare covers respite care for up to five days if you are getting covered hospice care. Room and board are covered for inpatient respite care and during short-term hospital stays.


For more information about Medicare coverage of hospice care and who qualifies, get a free copy of the booklet "Medicare Hospice Benefits." Visit the Medicare Publications tool or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.


Program for All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)


PACE manages all of the medical, social, and long-term care services for frail people to remain in their homes and to maintain their quality of life. PACE is available only in states that have chosen to offer it under Medicaid. The goal of PACE is to help people stay independent and living in their community as long as possible, while getting the high quality care they need. To be eligible for PACE, you must be age 55 or older, live in the service area of a PACE program, be certified as eligible for nursing home care by the appropriate State agency, and be able to live safely in the community.

To find out if there is a PACE program in your area, call the State Medical Assistance Office You can also visit:


Home and Community-Based Waiver Programs


If you are already eligible for Medicaid, (or, in some states, would be eligible for Medicaid coverage in a nursing home) you may be able to get help with the costs of some home and community-based services, like homemaker services, personal care, and respite care. States have home and community-based waiver programs to help people keep their independence, while getting the care they need outside of an inpatient facility.

For more information you can call the Area Agency on Aging or The Eldercare Locator.