Why consider shared equity housing models?
The finances of special needs housing can be complex. There are publicly-funded and privately-funded options. No matter which path you choose, you will soon be confronted with the stark reality that there is too little housing for adults with special needs. This results in over 180,000 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities living at home, with their aging parents who are 60 or older. Therefore it is essential to increase housing options across the board, using both publicly-funded and privately-funded models.
Public housing options are often not specific to those with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Section 8 Housing
Section 8 is a federally-funded housing program that relies on individuals (or families) applying for – and receiving – housing vouchers that “travel” with the individual or family through the feature of portability. Qualification is based on income, and in many areas, there is a wait to even be on the waiting list. The Biden administration hopes to eliminate the wait list and fully fund this program. While Section 8 Housing can serve some
Group Homes/Supportive Living
Designed primarily for elderly individuals, these types of housing facilities have numerous names that vary from state to state. What they share is a highly-regulated housing environment that cannot guarantee choice or flexibility to residents. Many, but not all, are directly funded by Medicaid Waiver funds, meaning it is nearly impossible to include non-disabled peers in the home or community.
Private options may, in some cases, be paid for using long-term care policies (depending on the age of the individual) or other funds. The availability and accessibility of these options varies greatly among regions, but overall there is insufficient space for our rapidly burgeoning – and aging – population of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The positive news is that when these options exist, by and large they tend to support more flexibility for the residents than the public options listed above.
Assisted living facilities tend to be age-limited. If the goal is to have an adult child well-settled before the parents are no longer able to care for the individual, then waiting until the age threshold for a community can mean pushing the envelope. If facilities admit residents based on disability, not on age, then the community is not integrated.
Again, these facilities tend to be age-limited, and may be inappropriate choices for individuals who are active and without medical comorbidities. They are also, by design, not integrated communities, however they do provide a high level of care.
Non-profit special needs housing
There are about 50 non-profit special needs farming communities in the US, but all are at capacity. If parents of individuals with disabilities create a non-profit, and serve on the board, conflict of interest issues may arise when allocating spaces within the community. Additionally, non-profits typically require an ongoing level of fundraising that creates a different type of work beyond the core work of creating and maintaining a housing community.
Special Needs Trust ownership of home
An individual or family may purchase a home and place it in a special needs trust. This allows the individual to live in the home for their lifetime, while preserving access to public benefits based on limited income and assets. This model is the right solution for some, but it can lack the community feeling of some of the other models, and it is up to the family to determine who else lives in the home and to manage their residency.
Shared equity housing models (via special needs LLC)
Shared equity housing models allow special needs families (or individuals) to own a portion of the property where the individual with special needs will live. In return for the equity purchase in the LLC comes lifetime access to a space in the community. Residents pay a monthly amount, less than their SSI/SSDI amount, to pay for utilities, maintenance, and for the community manager.
Shared equity housing models do require a significant level of buy-in to launch each community. Once launched, however, the community may rent available spaces to others in the community, with or without disabilities, thus creating an integrated community environment. In the case of Living Unlimited, the share may be transferred, sold, or when space permits, traded for a share in another Living Unlimited community.
Do you want to learn more about using the equity housing model to create integrated special needs communities? Learn more at Living Unlimited. Currently there are bi-weekly, interactive Zoom meetings to connect with other families and learn more shared equity housing models.