When am I Ready to Live on my Own?
Sometimes, a person with a disability may be eager to move into their own place, but family and friends are not as eager or supportive of this plan. Having an understanding of resources and services available to address needs in your own home can help reduce concerns of others.
Readiness is an Individual Decision
Some people are ready to live in their own place when they are in their 20’s, and some feel ready when they are much older. Some people want to have enough income to pay for the things they think they will need in their own place. They may apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and it may take time to get these benefits. Some people want to get a job to add to their income. Others may have help from family or friends and are not as concerned about finances.
Whatever your situation is, it is important to begin thinking about where you will live when you are young. This will give you time to gain experiences and skills, learn about programs that can help you pay for your housing costs, learn to create a budget and live within its guidelines, apply for credit and establish a good credit rating, consider the supports you will need when you have your own place and talk with your family and friends to gain from their experiences and to learn about their concerns.
Making an Informed Choice
Making a choice about where to live is a big decision that can affect many parts of your life. Having information and experiences that help you understand the type of place you are considering as your new home are critical to the decision-making process. Will you live in an apartment, a townhouse or a single-family home? If you have never been to one of these types of housing it will be difficult to decide if it is right for you. Could you live on the ninth floor of an apartment or condo building? Do you need outdoor space to walk, exercise or help you calm down? Can you walk up and down steps multiple times each day? Do normal noises from neighbors disturb you? Do footsteps above your head make you anxious? Do the sounds of children playing upset you? Thinking through your own needs and how they could be impacted by where you live is very important for the decision-making process.
Some suggestions for getting information and experience are listed here:
Visit people living in different settings, including apartments, townhomes, single family homes, condos and tiny homes.
Watch videos or TV shows with people living in different settings (HGTV).
Talk with people who have lived in different settings.
Go to open houses at apartment communities.
Go to open houses at single-family homes, townhomes and condos.
Read reviews of communities to see if there are common concerns among current or former residents that you think will also be of concern to you.
Check with the police to get information about crime in the community.
Visit the particular communities you are considering for your home. Try to go at different times of day.
Walk around the community if you can.
- Is the lighting good?
- Do people seem friendly?
- Is there outdoor space for you to enjoy?
- Are there a lot of children? Is there a playground?
- Is the community on a busy street or on a quiet cul-de-sac?
- Do people seem to take good care of their homes?
- Is there ample parking?
- Are the apartment community grounds clean and free of trash and debris?
- Is the community close to shopping, medical facilities and other things you want to access frequently?
- Is there public transportation?
- How often do buses or other transit vehicles come to the community?
- Is the nearest transit route within ¼ mile of where you would live?
The answers to these and many more questions will help you make a decision.
Basic Decisions to Make About Having Your Own Place
Who will I Live With?
When you apply for a rent subsidy waitlist, to live in an apartment or to purchase a home, you will need to know who will be living with you. Do you want to live alone or will you live with other family members, friends or a roommate to share costs? Do you need a caregiver to live with you to help you take care of your daily needs and/or to be safe? This decision will help you know how many bedrooms your new home will need to have.
Roommate – If you would like to live with a roommate and do not know someone, here are roommate finder websites that may be helpful to you:
A live-in caregiver is someone who lives with you to provide medically necessary services in your home. The types of services the caregiver provides are based on your personal needs, but in general may include help with bathing, dressing, meals, taking medication, supervision for safety, household cleanliness, shopping, etc. A live-in caregiver’s income is not included when you apply for an income-based rent subsidy or apartment. Also, the caregiver does not have rights of tenancy. This means that they are not protected by a lease, live in your home at your will and must leave if you ask them to leave.
A live-in caregiver can be a family member who does not have an obligation to support you. This includes parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and adult children of the person with a disability. It does not include a spouse, because your spouse is obligated to care for you.
A live-in caregiver can be hard to find. Some resources for finding a caregiver include your service provider, local college students, ads in local papers and listings on www.care.com. Here are some strategies for finding and interviewing a potential live-in caregiver:
Finding a Caregiver
Write an interesting want ad which includes information about:
- Your interests and hobbies.
- Pertinent lifestyle factors.
- Tasks the caregiver will need to do.
- Hours the caregiver will need to be with you.
Tips for Interviewing a Potential Caregiver
Meet in a public place.
Bring someone who cares about you to the interview.
Get a resume.
Do a criminal background check and a credit check.
Write out your interview questions in advance.
Ask about work experience, hobbies and interests, lifestyle (morning person or night owl, likes to party or homebody), dietary restrictions preferences (allergies, vegetarian, religious), other commitments (college classes, job, significant other, children, coach/part-time teacher etc.).
Ask the person with you to take notes.
Do not commit to hiring them at the interview. Let them know you will get back to them.
It’s important to have a written agreement with the caregiver that details expectations and requirements. Make sure you have them sign it. If you are using DDA waiver Live-in Caregiver Support Services, you will be required to have an agreement that is approved by the DDA.
Where will I live?
Your preference for where you live is also something to think about. Do you want to live in a city or in a rural area? Do you want to live near where you work, your family or your faith community? Do you need to live near public transportation or do you have another source of transportation? Below are some items to think about when choosing where you want to live:
- Living in Urban Areas – An urban area is a city or highly-populated area outside of a city. Urban areas often have a variety of public transportation services, medical facilities, faith centers, shopping areas, restaurants and recreation areas. Urban areas have a larger number of people living there and may be more crowded and noisier. There’s usually a lot to do close to home.
- Living in Suburban Areas – Suburban areas are less densely populated than cities and often surround urban areas. In the suburbs, transportation options may be more limited but there are usually bus lines, taxis, Ubers, Lyfts and other resources. Shopping, medical facilities, faith centers, restaurants and recreation areas may be farther from your home. People tend to use a car to get around. The suburbs are often less populated and quieter.
- Living Near Work, Family, Friends or Faith Communities – People who work often prefer to live close to work due to their transportation needs. Sometimes people prefer to live near family so they can visit easily and get support from family members when needed. Some people prefer to live close to their church or synagogue so they can walk to services.
- Living Near Transportation and Medical Facilities – People with disabilities often need to use public transportation to get to work, the store, family, medical appointments etc. Living near public transportation is important. If a community has paratransit services, they will provide you with transportation if you live within ¼ mile of a fixed transit route. Think about your transportation needs and resources when you look for a place to live.
Some people have frequent medical appointments and prefer to live near their doctor or hospital. This may make transportation to appointments easier.
What are my Accessibility Needs?
Where you live may be affected by your physical accessibility needs. Some people need a home that is fully accessible for using a wheelchair. Others may need a home with no steps but don’t need the accessibility features that someone who uses a wheelchair may need. Others may need vision or hearing adaptations in their home. It’s important to think about your accessibility needs and write them down before you look for an apartment. Below is a checklist to help you with thinking about your accessibility needs.
What can I Afford?
One of the main barriers to renting or buying a home for a person with a disability is finances. Rent is not affordable for people whose main source of income is SSI or SSDI and most of these individuals need a rent subsidy or financial help from others in order to afford to rent a home. Financial help from others is also often needed by people who are looking to buy a home.
Housing Affordability Standard
There is a standard for housing affordability that has been agreed on by the government and housing providers. The standard is that housing is affordable for someone if they pay no more than 30% of their gross household income for rent and utilities combined. For example, if someone receives the maximum SSI as their only source of income, they are receiving $841 each month (as of 2022). To find out what 30% of $841 would be, multiply $841 x .30. The amount is $252.30. That is 30% of maximum SSI at this time. Paying more than $252.30 for rent and utilities each month would not be considered affordable.
Assessing Existing Resources
List the amount of money you have coming in each month and any valuable property or investments you may have (income and assets).
- Earned income: Do you have a job? The income you make is called “earned income.”
- SSI /SSDI / Retirement/ Pension/ Annuity: Some people have income from Social Security, whether it be SSI, SSDI, survivor benefits or retirement income. Some people may receive a pension from a job they worked or from their parent’s job. Some people may also receive income from an investment called an “annuity.”
- Other: List any other income you receive on a regular basis. This may include money you receive monthly from a trust or from family members. If you receive regular financial assistance from your family, friends or a trust, this is considered income. It can affect your SSI benefits if your family or friends help you with paying your rent/mortgage, utilities or food. Gifts your family and friends give you every now and then are not considered income.
- Assets: Savings and Investments
- ABLE account: Funds from your ABLE account can be used to pay for housing expenses such as rent, utilities (gas, electric, water, sewer), maintenance (grass cutting, house cleaning), mortgage, insurance and property taxes, etc. The money in your ABLE account is not considered an asset for housing programs that are available to people with low incomes.
- Savings account: The funds you save at the bank in a savings account is considered an asset.
- Investments: These are funds you may have in a 401K, IRA, stocks, bonds, etc.
- Special Needs Trust: Funds in a special needs trust are usually not considered an asset. It is important to check with an attorney to see if your special needs trust funds would be an asset.
- Rent Subsidy: A rent subsidy is money paid to your landlord on your behalf to pay part of your rent. Most rent subsidy programs are based on the person’s income. For example, most rent subsidy programs require the person to pay 30% of their income for rent and utilities, and the program pays the rest of the rent. If you live with someone else and have a rent subsidy, the program will base the rent on the income of everyone living with you. This is called household income.
- Roommate Income: If you have a roommate, the money they contribute to monthly housing costs can make renting a place much more affordable.
Creating a Household Budget
Creating a budget is a smart thing to do. It helps you know how much money you receive every month, how much your expenses are and how much money you have left for other things. You can start to create a budget now and learn to live within the budget even before you get your own home. If you can do this, it will show your family and housing providers that you are responsible with your money.
When you create a budget, you can figure out how much money you receive every month from your earnings, SSI, SSDI, other sources and family/friends. You then list all of the expenses you have – everything from rent to utilities, gym memberships, cable, insurance, transportation costs, food, clothing, gifts for family and friends, etc. Add up all of your income and expenses separately, then subtract the expenses from your income. This will tell you how much money you have for other things.