If you’re part of the 25% of U.S. adults living with a disability, you’re likely used to overcoming obstacles. However, when it comes to buying a home, the process may seem daunting. Renting may not be an option due to the lack of necessary accommodations, so buying is often the best choice to ensure your home fits your needs.
While securing a mortgage and buying a home has its upsides, there are also some potential risks to be aware of. First off, you are responsible for all maintenance and repairs. You must either perform them manually, or pay someone to take care of it for you. Depending on your disability and income level, this may be especially difficult.
Lastly, it’s important to build up a solid amount of savings before buying. That way, you’ll be able to make the necessary changes to improve accessibility, and you won’t struggle to pay your mortgage or even lose your home. This would likely hurt your credit, making it harder for you to find a mortgage or landlord in the future.
Despite the challenges of being a homeowner, you’ll be glad to know that there are several mortgage options and financial aid programs available to make it easier. This guide is intended to provide all the information you need to secure a home loan while living with a disability.
The federal government defines a person with a disability as someone who:
“Major life activities,” as defined by the the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), include walking, speaking, hearing, seeing, breathing, working, learning, performing manual tasks, and caring for oneself. It also includes the operation of major bodily activities.
HUD gives examples of a “physical or mental impairment” such as orthopedic, visual, speech and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, HIV, developmental disabilities, mental illness, drug addiction, and alcoholism.
These are just a few examples of types of disabilities. Any impairment that is found to impose a substantial limitation on a major life activity is considered a disability by the federal government and will qualify you for mortgage programs and financial assistance for people with disabilities.
Thanks to numerous government-sponsored associations, there are plenty of mortgage programs and disability loans available for people living with disabilities. Take some time to consider your options and find the one that best fits your needs.
HUD offers the Housing Choice Voucher (H.C.V.) homeownership program. If you don’t have a voucher, you will need to find a Public Housing Agency that offers an HCV loan program in your area. To help, visit their homeownership enrollments report. Keep in mind that waiting lists may be long.
An HCV covers the cost of the mortgage principal and interest, real estate taxes, homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance, utilities, maintenance and repairs, and the cost of making the home accessible.
These are the requirements to obtain a voucher:
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is a subsidiary of HUD that provides mortgage insurance on home loans for disabled from approved lenders. Use HUD’s tool to find an approved lender in your area..
An FHA loan from an approved lender is generally less expensive than a regular home loan because it is backed by the US government. For this reason, it may be a good option for someone with a disability who has limited income.
The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) is a government-sponsored company. Its Community HomeChoice program is available in all states and offers the following housing aid for people with disabilities:
The US Department of Agriculture and Rural Development offers special subsidized housing for low-income households. You don’t need a down payment and your interest rate can be as low as 1%, given you are:
These disability benefits can help any borrower create tailored accommodations for their circumstances.
Disabled veterans have a multitude of housing benefits. You may be eligible for grants and other VA loan options to help make your home accessible, including The Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant and Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grant. In addition, if your disability is service-related, the following rules apply:
Many states offer additional home-financing assistance and financial aid especially for people with disabilities. Some examples include:
Visit disabled-world.com/disability/finance/american-home-loans.php to view the benefits available in your state.
While there are many federally-backed programs to help you find affordable housing, many non-profit organizations have stepped in to offer additional assistance. Here are just a few ways to find housing help outside of the government.
Habitat for Humanity offers affordable housing to lower-income individuals and families, which may include those with disabilities. There are hundreds of locations all over the U.S. Find one near you by entering your zip code here.
Here are some things to keep in mind for eligible borrowers when applying for a Habitat home:
Rebuilding Together works with companies like Lowes and Sherwin Williams to offer home repairs and modifications for families with one or more disabled members. They offer a safety checklist to ensure all the right home features are present for someone who had a disability discharge or other families with disabilities. Rebuilding Together helps families in 39 states, so visit their list of locations to find an affiliate near you.
Homes for Our Troops offers mortgage-free homes for disabled veteran members who were wounded in overseas combat after September 11th, 2001. To qualify, you must:
To apply, complete an online inquiry form at https://www.hfotusa.org/inquiry.
When it comes to securing home loans for people on disability, there are laws and regulations put into place to protect these individuals. It’s important to know the rights that protect both renters and buyers from discrimination.
Remember that if you suspect you are experiencing discrimination based on a disability, you can file a complaint.
Here’s who to contact:
Office of Compliance and Disability Rights Division
Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th St., S.W., Room 5242
Washington, DC 20410
Phone: (800) 669-9777
TTY: (800) 927-9275
The Fair Housing Act was amended in 1988 and legally prohibits the following:
The Fair Housing Act allows you the right to request reasonable accommodations that allow you to fully enjoy your housing. For example, if you are in a wheelchair, reasonable accommodations for an apartment may include a lower mailbox or an assigned parking spot.
A landlord or housing provider may be able to refuse these requests if they create undue financial or administrative burden. If this is the case, there are many grants available to help pay for these accommodations.
Reasonable accommodations also include service animals. This means that a landlord with a strict “no pets” policy may be required to grant an exception for someone who is visually impaired and has a guide dog.
Living with a disability can pose many challenges, but that doesn’t have to stop you from living in a great home. You don’t have to tank your credit score or drain your savings, either. Simply taking the time to know your mortgage options or other disability loans and legal rights will set you up to buy your dream home at an affordable cost.
Jeff Smith is VP of Marketing at Self. See Jeff on LinkedIn.
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