Housing for Adult Beneficiaries of Special Needs Trusts: Know Your Options

picture of a row of colorful houses on a tree-lined street

This article is a part of True Link’s Guest Expert Series. We have interviewed leaders knowledgeable in disability planning, elder law, and trust administration and will be sharing their expertise with you in a series of videos and posts. Note: this article is not intended to provide investment, legal, tax, accounting or medical advice. Before making decisions involving investing, legal, tax, accounting or medical concerns, you should consult appropriate professionals regarding your specific situation.

Where we live can have a huge impact on our quality of life. That’s why helping individuals with disabilities secure the right housing is so important. Families may grapple with this decision when a child reaches adulthood or at a later time when living at home with parents is no longer possible. Whenever this transition occurs, it requires careful planning and extensive research about the options available in the particular community – and the earlier you can get started, the better. 

Choosing the right housing starts with understanding the landscape of housing options. As the President of National Care Advisors Ann Koerner shares, there may be more choices than you realize. “There are many options out there and sometimes I think we limit ourselves by not looking at every type of supportive housing that’s available, be it a high quality group home, a community cottage, a supportive living situation, or having a parent purchase a condo and setting up support services[…] All of those things are viable options.”

Some of the options that may be available include:

Section 8 Housing 

Commonly known as “Section 8” the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program, provides funding to subsidize rental housing for low-income adults with disabilities.

This federally-run program is structured as a voucher system and is administered by state housing agencies with rents capped at 30 percent of their incomes. According to Barb Helm, the Executive Director of Arcare, “The best deal out there is Section 8.”

State and local programs

Most government housing programs geared toward people with disabilities are run at the state and local level. Many cities and states are required to provide supportive, low-income housing for people with disabilities under settlements stemming from Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits. Searching online for “subsidized housing for people with disabilities in my area” can be a good starting point for understanding your options. Local special needs planners and other area experts like Barb Helm can also provide valuable recommendations, as you can see in her video about housing in the Kansas City Area. She emphasizes the importance of starting early, noting that “there may be waiting lists for the waiting lists” to get approved for subsidized housing.

Group Homes / Supportive Housing

Many individuals with disabilities choose to live in supportive group homes with other individuals. Depending on the program, these homes could be staffed with counselors who help the residents live on their own, or, in some cases, the residents live without live-in assistance. Group homes can be a good option for people with special needs who don't require advanced care but who cannot live independently. In many cases, group homes also provide a social setting for the residents which can contribute positively to wellbeing. 

Assisted Living Facilities

Although the term "assisted living" has come to mean a lot of things, in general, assisted living residents live in their own apartments within a building or complex of buildings. The residents can cook in their units or eat in a communal dining hall, and they receive non-skilled care, which can include assistance with bathing, cleaning, and administering medicine. 

Ownership of a Home or Rent Support 

Some families may choose to own a home and rent it out to an individual at a subsidized rate or pay for the beneficiary’s rent in another private residence. Before you go this route, you will want to research state laws around whether your rent support could count as income and potentially impact means-tested benefits.

Homes can also be placed in a Special Needs Trusts for the purpose of the beneficiary residing in them, but if you go this route, there are a number of responsibilities to consider. Special Needs Trust Attorney Roy Froemming outlines some of those things in this video.

As always, we encourage you to connect with local experts and resources to navigate these housing options.

Want to watch these videos on Vimeo? Here are the links to the guest expert videos related to this topic:

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