1. Housing Discrimination Complaints. Every April marks the passing of the 1968 Fair Housing Act (FH Act), which prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and family status. This year’s theme is “Fair Housing Is Your Right: Use It!” If you feel that your civil rights have been violated, you can file a housing discrimination complaint online with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The FAIR HOUSING: Equal Opportunity for All publication contains helpful information on the FH Act, housing protection for people with disabilities and families with children, what happens when you file a complaint and other related topics. Watch the provocative HUD-sponsored documentary, A Matter of Place, which portrays the stories of three people who faced housing discrimination in New York City.
2. Accessible Housing refers to the construction or modification of housing that enables people with disabilities and senior citizens to live independently. Examples include lowered kitchen counters and sinks, roll-under stoves, widened doorways, wheel-in showers, grab bars in bathrooms, raised electrical outlets and outside ramps for people with wheelchairs or other mobility impairments. HUD’s Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST initiative outlines seven basic standards that must be met to comply with the FH Act’s design and construction requirements. These include both interior and exterior spaces, as well as public use areas. An Easter Seals brochure, Easy Access Housing for Easier Living, contains a Home Adaptability Checklist, as well as a section that highlights common accessibility problems, such as narrow doors, and offers simple solutions to remedy them. Looking for accessible housing? Accessible Space’s website can help you find rent-subsidized accessible housing for people with disabilities and seniors, age 62 and older, in certain states.
3. Rental Assistance. Public housing and other rental assistance programs, such as “Section 8” housing choice vouchers, often help seniors, people with disabilities and low-income families afford housing when owning a home is not a viable option. Since income limits for rental assistance vary from state-to-state, and even county-to-county, you should contact your local public housing agency to find out which options are available and if you are eligible. In general, there is no limit to the amount of time you can stay in public housing, as long as you follow the terms of your lease and your income continues to meet the eligibility requirements. Visit HUD.gov to learn about government-funded rental assistance programs or use the Low-rent Apartment Search tool to find privately-owned subsidized housing in your community. If you live in a rural area, you may qualify for help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Contact the Rural Development agency in your state to get started. In addition, some Community Action Agencies and organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Lutheran Services in America, provide housing and rental assistance.
4. Assistance Animals are trained to do tasks or provide emotional support to ease one or more effects of a person’s disability. For example, a service animal may guide an individual who is blind, alert someone who is hard-of-hearing or calm a person who has post-traumatic stress disorder. In April 2013, HUD issued new guidelines that explain housing providers’ duties to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities who have assistance animals. As required by the FH Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, landlords may need to change their “no pets” rule to let a tenant with a disability live with an assistance animal, despite its breed, size or weight. A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice limited service animals to dogs under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act; however, this change does not affect the broader definition of an assistance animal under the FH Act. For answers to frequently asked questions, you can also visit Pet Partners’ webpage, Service Animals and Housing. Topics include the FH Act and how it defines disability; types of housing covered and exempted; how service animals are categorized; and the rights of housing providers.
5. Social Security Benefits and Living Arrangements. While many people enter into shared living arrangements (e.g., roommates, group homes) to save money, if you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the amount of your benefits could be affected. Two sections of the Social Security Administration’s website, Spotlight on Living Arrangements and Understanding Supplemental Security Income Living Arrangements, have information on why your housing situation is important when determining SSI. Possible scenarios are highlighted, including calculations that show how much your monthly benefit could be reduced. The article, How Does Having a Paying Roommate Affect Collecting SS Disability?, offers basic information on the rules regarding income and living arrangements for people who are collecting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). However, the best course of action is to speak to a Social Security representative about your situation. Call toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
6. Homeless Assistance. According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, approximately 3.5 million people, including 1.35 million children, are likely to experience homelessness in any given year. If you are homeless or know someone who is, there are resources to help you. The National Coalition for the Homeless offers emergency assistance depending on your situation – whether you are currently homeless or about to become homeless. For help in rural areas, contact the USDA’s Rural Development agency or a Community Action Agency in your state. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans offers a list of service organizations in each state, but if you are a veteran in need of immediate assistance, call 1-800-VET-HELP. If you are a teenager and thinking about running away from home or if you are already living on the streets, call the toll-free and confidential National Runaway Safeline at 1-800-786-2929 for assistance. In addition, you can visit HomelessShelterDirectory.org to find shelters and service organizations near you.
7. First-time Homebuyers. Buying your first home is an exciting step. At the same time, you may feel overwhelmed about making such a large purchase. HUD’s webpage, Buying a Home, or the National Association of Realtors’ article, 10 Ways to Prepare for Homeownership, can help you get started. Tips include figuring out how much you can afford, requesting your credit report and getting pre-approved for a loan. If you are a first-time homebuyer, it is a good idea to use a realtor who can help you navigate the home-buying process and stay within your price range. Check out 12 Questions to Ask a Potential Realtor. You may also want to read HUD’s Looking for the Best Mortgage booklet or use one of Freddie Mac’s Calculators to see how different terms and down payments will affect the amount of your mortgage payment. In addition, HUD-approved housing counselors can give advice about which options might work best for you, as well as help you look at homes for sale from the federal government.
8. “Aging in Place” is a term used to describe the ability of adults to live safely and comfortably in their homes as they age, despite decreasing mobility. The PBS article, Recommendation No. 1 for a Secure Retirement: “Age in Place, explores some of the benefits. The National Institute on Aging’s tip sheet, There’s No Place Like Home – For Growing Old, outlines the kinds of services and products older adults might want to consider when making the decision to age in place, as well as where to go for more information and assistance. Aside from home modifications that support changes in your mobility, AARP recommends apps to help you stay in touch with family members and age gracefully. In addition, the National Aging in Place Council’s website allows you to search for local service providers or support chapters that can help you continue to live at home.
9. Home Modifications are sometimes necessary to make your home suitable to your needs and day-to-day living. To get started, read the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) article about things you should consider before beginning a remodeling project. Since all disabilities are unique, you may first want to evaluate which modifications you need. Consider this Eldercare.gov fact sheet or Rebuilding Together Safe at Home Checklist, which list areas of your home that should be examined for safety, fall prevention and accessibility. If you would rather speak to a professional, the NAHB has a directory of Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists who can recommend solutions.
Equally important, you may be eligible for financial assistance to help you pay for your home modifications. From government agencies to nonprofits, there are many organizations that provide funding for home modifications or volunteer services. Examples include Area Agencies on Aging, Centers for Independent Living, Community Action Agencies, some Habitat for Humanity chapters and Rebuilding Together affiliates. Please keep in mind that the services offered by these organizations vary from city to city. According to a MoneyWatch article, you also may be able to take a medical expense tax deduction for certain improvements or equipment installed in your home.
10. Foreclosure is a scary situation for anyone who is struggling to make his or her mortgage payments. However, there are a number of steps you can take before it’s too late. HUD recommends that you talk to your lender or loan servicer immediately if you are having financial difficulties. Read the Federal Housing Administration’s brochure, Save Your Home: Tips to Avoid Foreclosure, to learn about prevention options. The foreclosure process is different in every state, so make sure you are aware of the laws and processes in your area. You can also call 1-888-995-HOPE to talk to a HUD-approved housing counseling agency. In addition, visit MakingHomeAffordable.gov to get answers to frequently asked questions about different government programs that may be able to lower your monthly mortgage payment. Another option is the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) Program, which helps participants sell their home through a short sale or Deed-in-Lieu of foreclosure. What should you do if you’ve recently lost your home to a foreclosure? Freddie Mac advises that your first priority should be to find housing. Once you do, you can then begin rebuilding your credit. Visit HUD.gov for additional information on avoiding foreclosure.
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Are you looking for Housing?
* REACH does NOT provide housing.
How REACH can help………
* Provide a list of housing options: Apartments, Assisted Living, Section 8, Nursing Homes, Group Homes, and ICF/IDD.
* Advocate regarding Fair Housing issues.
* Refer you to the appropriate organizations that might be able to assist you with your specific housing needs. (Ex. Rent assistance, utility assistance, etc.).
* Provide a "Making the Move" booklet that provides a helpful list of considerations before deciding what type of housing might meet your specific needs.
* Assist with filling out forms and/or applications.
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For The State of Texas Congressional District Housing Profile Report clickhere
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- I’m Renting My First Apartment. What Should I Do?
Pamela Momon, Housing Resource Specialist