Housing for People with Disabilities

As someone living with a physical or emotional disability, you’re no stranger to overcoming obstacles. However, buying a home often presents an entirely unique set of challenges. For that reason, The Simple Dollar’s fully accessible guide to home loans for people with disabilities has vital information you need to know.

This guide offers a comprehensive overview of resources and opportunities that can help you overcome the financial challenges that stand between you and homeownership. Whether you’re in the market for a new home or you’re a first-time buyer, this guide has the information you need.

Defining disability

Federal laws define someone with a disability as:

“Any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.”

Physical or mental impairments generally include conditions that substantially limit one or more major life activities, such as:

  • Impairments affecting hearing, vision and mobility
  • Chronic alcoholism
  • Chronic mental illness
  • AIDS
  • AIDS-related complex
  • Mental retardation

Federal laws further define major life activities to include:

  • Walking
  • Talking
  • Hearing
  • Seeing
  • Breathing
  • Learning
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Caring for oneself

You can learn more about the legal definitions of disabilities on the HUD website.

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Financial assistance

Unfortunately, people with disabilities tend to have significantly less wealth than people without disabilities, which may lead to more difficulties affording their own homes. Also, the costs of installing structural accommodations such as wheelchair ramps or bathroom grab bars can drive costs even higher.

Fortunately, a number of public agencies and private organizations offer financial assistance for qualified applicants. Here’s a listing of some useful sources of financial help for homebuyers like you:

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

HUD’s Homeownership Voucher Program provides financial help with mortgages and other expenses. The program allows recipients to use Section 8 housing vouchers for purchasing a home rather than renting.

Visit the HUD website to find a Public Housing Agency (PHA) in your area. You can search by state, city and ZIP Code. Under the Type heading on the search pages, look for PHAs listed as Section 8 or Both.

If you can’t find a PHA in your area that administers the program, the HUD website also offers a way to search for state and local assistance.

More HUD resources

Contact HUD
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th St., S.W.,
Washington, DC 20410

Email: answers@hud.gov
Telephone: (202) 708-1112
TTY: (202) 708-1455

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

The Federal Housing Administration, a subsidiary of HUD, offers services that include providing mortgage insurance on home loans made by approved lenders. The HUD website offers a search tool to find approved lenders.

An FHA-backed mortgage is sometimes informally called an FHA loan. This type of mortgage is generally less expensive since it has the backing of the government and may be a good choice for homebuyers with limited income.

Contact FHA

Federal Housing Administration
451 7th St., S.W.
Washington, DC 20410

Email: info@fhaoutreach.com
Phone: (800) 225-5342
TTY: (800) 877-8339

Fannie Mae

The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) is a government-sponsored enterprise that provides access to affordable mortgage financing. The process involves buying loans from mortgage lenders and packaging them to be sold to investors as mortgage-backed securities.

Fannie Mae’s HomeReady® Mortgage program includes special assistance for people with disabilities in the form of flexible underwriting on home loans.

Fannie Mae also operates the website KnowYourOptions.com as an educational resource for homebuyers.

Contact Fannie Mae

3900 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.,
Washington, DC 20016-2892

Southwestern Regional Office
International Plaza II
14221 Dallas Parkway, Suite 1000
Dallas, TX 75254-2916

Midwestern Regional Office
Fannie Mae
One South Wacker Drive, Suite 1400
Chicago, IL 60606-4667

Northeastern Regional Office
1835 Market St., Suite 2300
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2909

Southeastern Regional Office
1075 Peachtree St. N.E., Suite 1600
Atlanta, GA 30309

Western Regional Office
135 North Los Robles Ave., Suite 400
Pasadena, CA 91101-1707

Email: Submit via contact form
Phone: (800) 232-6643

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that helps provide housing for people with low incomes, which may include the people with disabilities. You can apply for assistance on the Habitat website or find your local Habitat chapter.

The organization is known for its “sweat equity” partnerships that require Habitat homeowners to help build their own homes. However, don’t let that requirement discourage you — it doesn’t have to involve physical labor. Performing sweat equity can also include taking classes on homeownership or volunteering at a Habitat ReStore.

Habitat also has support organizations in nearly 30 states:

Habitat for Humanity state support organizations
AlabamaNew Mexico
CaliforniaNew York State
ColoradoNorth Carolina
IllinoisSouth Carolina
IndianaSouth Dakota
MinnesotaWest Virginia

Contact Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity International
121 Habitat St.
Americus, GA 31709-3498 USA

Phone: (800) 422-4828 or (229) 924-6935

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Assistance for veterans with disabilities

If you’re a veteran with a disability, the right kind of financial help can lower the size of the home loan you may require. Sources of housing assistance for veterans with disabilities include:

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, commonly known as the VA, offers housing grants to assist veterans who have certain disabilities connected to their time in service. With the Specially Adapted Housing Grants (SAH) or Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grants, eligible veterans can receive help in purchasing, building or remodeling to acquire homes that meet their needs.

To apply for the SAH/SHA benefit, you need to fill out and submit VA Form 26-4555. You can get a form by:

Contact the VA

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20420

Email: sahinfo.vbaco@va.gov
Phone: (800) 827-3702
TTY: (800) 829-4833

Homes For Our Troops

Homes For Our Troops is a nonprofit agency dedicated to purchasing or building specially adapted homes for veterans severely injured in Iraq and Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001. Other basic criteria include:

  • Retired or in the process of medical retirement from military service.
  • Received a letter of eligibility for the VA Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) program.
  • Pass a criminal and credit background check.
  • The HFOT home must be the primary residence. Veterans must accept the responsibility of home ownership and have the resources to maintain a home, including ongoing maintenance and upkeep, property taxes, home insurance, utilities, etc.

Veterans with disabilities can complete an online Inquiry Form at https://www.hfotusa.org/inquiry. You can also send a message to Homes For Our Troops online.

Contact Homes For Our Troops

Homes For Our Troops
6 Main St.
Taunton, MA 02780

Phone: (866) 787-6677

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Depending on your work history, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Either form of support can help the people with disabilities pay for basic needs such as housing, which could include paying off a home loan.

Potential home buyers not currently receiving SSDI or SSI should check their eligibility since every bit of extra income can help reduce the cost of homeownership. Visit the Social Security Administration (SSA) website to see if you qualify for SSDI or SSI.

If you have difficulty reading text online, the site also has an Accessibility Help page.

Contact SSA

Social Security Administration
Office of Public Inquiries
1100 West High Rise
6401 Security Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21235

Email: Submit via contact form

Phone: (800) 772-1213
TTY: (800) 325-0778

Find a local Social Security office: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp

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Know your rights

As a person with a disability, you have legal rights to protect you from discrimination in housing. Those rights cover not only renters but also homebuyers.

Your protection from discrimination under the Fair Housing Act includes:

  • Landlords and homeowners cannot refuse to rent or sell to a person with a disability based solely on their disabled status.
  • Housing providers cannot impose a different set of rules or conditions on a person with a disability in order to disqualify them as a tenant or buyer.
  • Governing bodies are prevented from modifying or using zoning and land use policies to prevent people from disabilities from relocating to their area.

Consumer protection

If you receive government benefits due to your disability status, you also have protection as a consumer in securing a mortgage. As you shop for and apply for home loans, remember that lenders are not allowed to discriminate against borrowers who receive public assistance.

Reasonable accommodations

In addition, the Fair Housing Act entitles you to request reasonable accommodations that provide you with equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. As an example, consider a person in a wheelchair buying a condominium. Requests for reasonable accommodations to the property owner might include a lowered mailbox or an assigned parking space.

A housing provider can deny such a request under certain circumstances (for example, if it imposed an undue financial or administrative burden). Fortunately, homeowners with disabilities can turn to a number of programs offering grants for home modification.

Assistance animals

Reasonable accommodations also extend to assistance animals. These animals are not pets, so a homebuyer with a disability can request an exception to a “no pets” policy. In fact, HUD has issued a notice clarifying housing providers’ obligations on the subject of applicants and tenants who need an assistance animal.

Fair housing complaints

To make a complaint about suspected housing discrimination, 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

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Get a home loan and a piece of the dream

A physical or mental disability may require you to live with certain limitations, but the lack of a home you can call your own doesn’t have to be one of them. With some research and hard work, you can find the resources that will help you better afford a home loan and the home of your dreams.

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Accessibility notice

The Ultimate Guide to Home Loans for People with Disabilities was written and designed to accommodate the special needs of homebuyers with disabilities. The design, formatting and style were developed to be easily interpreted by people with visual, hearing and mobility disabilities. It was built to work with a broad range of assistive technologies.

This guide was published in conformance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, which can be found at http://www.w3.org/TR/2008/REC-WCAG20-20081211/, and meets Level AAA conformance guidelines. Currently, conformance is only being claimed for the content specifically found on this webpage: