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Start Here Ryan Braun August 19, 2022

Housing Options Guide START HERE

Find resources and important background information to help you get the greatest benefit out of this Housing Options Guide.

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  • Waivers do not fund housing.  Waivers provide supports and services, such as staff support, technology supports, day supports, etc. 
  • Housing costs, such as rent and utilities, must be paid from other sources, such as earned income, Social Security, or SSI/SSDI.
  • It’s important to get organized by planning for two separate but related pieces:  1.) the physical housing – where the person will live  and 2.)  supports to live in that housing.  
  • This Guide is designed to help with planning for physical housing.
  • Some people with disabilities can receive a Medicaid waiver that can fund supports (including staff support and technology supports).  Contact the local county board of developmental disabilities for more information.
  • It’s essential to know where you want to go before  planning how to get there. Before looking at housing options, it’s important to stop and think about what ‘home’ and ‘community’ mean to the person with a disability and the family.  A clear picture of the important  features of home and community can help guide the housing  planning process. 
  • Watch the videos included in this Housing Guide.  Listen for ways that these families have made plans for housing that reflect what home and community mean to their family member. 
  • The person with a disability and their family can use this worksheet  to explore  What Does A Good Home Look Like? 
  • Many families find it useful to plan for housing in the context of planning for a good life.  Families can use 
  • Charting the LifeCourse tools for this purpose.
  • See one family’s experience of using Charting the LifeCourse to plan for housing.
  • Families that include an older caregiver can take advantage of the Future is Now family sessions offered by Hamilton County DD Services.  These sessions offer an opportunity for the family, including the member with a disability, to plan for a good life.  Families have an opportunity to learn and plan for housing that aligns with their hopes for the future.  Information about the Future is Now can be found on the Hamilton County DD Services website here.
  • It’s important to protect and maximize public benefits such SSI/SSDI benefits.  Since this can be confusing, it’s important for the parent(s) to seek guidance from a benefits expert before making any decisions that could impact benefits.  
  •  It’s important to know which social security benefit your family member with a disability receives, and how that benefit might be impacted by any housing option under consideration.  (See the glossary for more information about SSI and SSDI and SSDAC.)  As you read the information below, pay attention to  which benefit is mentioned,  so that you can determine if the information applies to your situation.
  • For any housing option (except home ownership) the family member receiving SSI benefits will need to pay fair market rent, and a fair share of utilities and food, since not paying towards these will affect these benefits. (It is possible for a share of utilities to be included in the rent.)  If the person receiving SSI benefits does not pay fair market rent, utilities and food, the person is considered to be receiving “In-kind support and maintenance” and benefits may be reduced.  In-kind support and maintenance (ISM) is food or shelter that somebody else provides for a person. The Social Security Administration counts ISM as income when they figure the amount of that person’s SSI benefits. For example, if someone helps pay for rent, mortgage, food, or utilities, this will reduce the amount of SSI benefits. 
  •  If a parent is deceased, has a disability themselves or is retired and accepting Social Security the adult child whose disability occurred before age 22 can become eligible for Social Security Disability Adult Child (SSDAC), — This benefit is a form of SSDI and is based on the earnings record of the person’s parent.  The amount of the SSDI/SSDAC monthly benefit is not affected by in-kind support and maintenance, but can be affected by earned income, such as income from a job.  
  • If a person is receiving SSI, the cost for rent, utilities, and food cannot exceed the current monthly federal benefit rate. (In January 2020, that monthly amount is $783).
  • If the parent(s) contributes directly to payment of rent and/or utilities, this will reduce the amount of SSI. However, if the parent(s) contributes to a STABLE Account, and those funds are used to pay housing costs, SSI will not be impacted.
  • The Social Security Administration offers useful information and examples of how SSI can be impacted by different living situations and different scenarios for in-kind support and maintenance. 
  •  If your family member with a disability gets benefits from Social Security but isn’t sure which, order a free Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) at your local Social Security office or by calling 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY).
  • Hamilton County DDS provides the services of a benefits expert who can assist people served by DDS and their families. Contact Dianne Sunderman, DDS Benefits Manager, at
  • There are many types of guardianship in Ohio, including Limited Guardianship, Guardianship of the Person, Guardianship of the Estate, and Plenary Guardianship, just to name a few.  Each is different in the level of control and responsibility given to the Guardian, and the extent of personal rights taken away from the person with a disability.   
  • The parent(s) who holds some form of  guardianship should understand the type of guardianship they hold, and seek professional advice if there  are questions about responsibilities or liability related to a housing decision.
  • If a Guardian has court authority to enter into a contract, the Guardian is not personally liable for contracts signed on behalf of the ward.
  • ProSeniors (see Legal Resources below) may be one source of advice.
  •  The Ohio DD Council has published a booklet entitled: “Guardianship in Ohio.” Find the booklet here.
  • Medicaid rule requires “free choice of provider”.  This means that anyone who uses a Medicaid waiver to secure the services of a provider is free to choose any certified service provider.   
  • Some counties, including Hamilton County, encourage people with disabilities who live in the same home to choose the same provider.  Exceptions can be made if the person with a disability requires a specific provider for reasons of safety or health. This is something to keep in mind when considering housing options where two or more people with disabilities live together. 
  • Some agency providers who provide staff supports also own property (homes). This means that they provide services and are the landlord to the family member with a disability who lives in the home. This arrangement has potential benefits and risks. One of the benefits is that the agency/landlord has an investment in ensuring that the property is well-maintained. One risk is that agency provider can decide to no longer serve the family member with a disability, most likely resulting in a situation that requires the family member to move if they are given a 30 day notice. 
  • Service providers can terminate services for any reason. They are required to provide a 30 day notice.
  • Service provider staff can potentially cause damage to a property (e.g.damage to an appliance). There is no direct method for the parent(s) to hold them accountable. This risk may be offset with property insurance.
  • Family members with a disability and non-family members who are renters are entitled to tenant protection under fair housing regulations. Disability is the number one Fair Housing Complaint. For information about fair housing or tenant/landlord rights and responsibilities, contact Housing Opportunities Made Equal at 513-721-4663 or This fair housing guide offers additional tips on how to advertise and rent property in ways that align with fair housing laws.
  • If the family member with the disability is living in a property that is subject to a condominium association agreement or Homeowner’s Association Agreement, that Agreement may impact any statements contained in this Guide.
  • ProSeniors Legal Hotline provides free legal information, advice, and referral for residents of Ohio age 60 and over, regardless of income or resources. Appointments are scheduled in 30-minute blocks for callers to talk to an attorney who handles Legal Hotline calls. They will work with clients until the case is closed, which means it has been resolved, or the case has been referred to a staff attorney, another Pro Seniors’ program, or an outside attorney for, typically, a reduced rate.  Ohioans often call to ask about Medicare, Medicaid and Medicaid estate recovery, living wills, durable powers of attorney for health care, housing, and consumer problems. Telephone appointments for the Legal Hotline are made Monday- Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. In the Cincinnati area,  call (513) 345-4160. Outside the local calling area, call  toll-free at (800) 488-6070.
  • When you call the Legal Hotline, you will initially speak with an intake worker, who will gather basic information, such as name, address, birth date, phone number, etc., and take down the general nature of your question or problem (the Hotline attorneys use this information when they return calls). The intake worker will schedule an appointment for you to speak with an attorney. Then one of the Legal Hotline attorneys will call you to discuss your legal issue.  See the website for more information
  • Using technology can often extend the time that the family member can live safely at home with their parents.  In addition, technology can often make it feasible for the family member with a disability to move from the family home and live more independently.
  • Technology makes it possible to secure entryways, offer two-way visual communication, monitor for falls and medication – and much more.  The combination of technology and people support’ can make it possible for the family member to be successful after a move from the family home.
  • If a family member with a disability has a waiver, the parent(s) can talk with the SSA (Service and Support Administrator) about using the waiver to provide technology support.  
  • If the family member does not have a waiver, caregivers can explore a range of inexpensive off-the-shelf technology that can help with everyday life. See the (video in this Housing Guide by Heather Sturgill, advocate and Home Think Tank member, about off-the-shelf technology that she uses in her home.
  • Home Think Tank (HTT) regularly offers information about technology at its quarterly sessions. 
  •  The April 2019 session focused on “Technology: Smart and Safe at Home.”  Handouts from that session are here.
  • Disability Cocoon is an online platform for learning, finding resources, and seeing real-life examples: Disability Cocoon
  • Some family members  with a disability will move out of their family home and rent an apartment or home.  It’s important for the parent(s) to know that waivers do not cover rent costs.  The family member with a disability must use a portion of their earnings or benefits, or some other source (such as a STABLE Account) to cover rent.
  • A Home Choice voucher (sometimes referred to as a ‘Section 8 voucher’) covers a portion of a person’s rent if    that person is age 18 or older and has limited income. Vouchers are issued by the local Metropolitan Housing Authority.  If a landlord agrees to accept a voucher, the person’s rent is reduced.  This makes housing more affordable.
  • Many adults with disabilities qualify for a voucher, even if they are currently living with their family that does not have income concerns.  
  • Not everyone who applies for a voucher will get one.  In Hamilton County, the application process includes a wait list and a lottery system.  See “Vouchers: What and How.” The SSA can help your family member with a disability get on the waiting list.
  • Not all Housing Authorities issue vouchers.   Some only administer public housing.  However, if the family  wants a voucher, they can go to a county that offers vouchers and get their family member on a wait list. If a family member with a disability is approved for a voucher in another county, that voucher can then be used in any Ohio county (provided that the person can find a landlord willing to accept the voucher).
  • Learning about vouchers and getting on the waitlist are important steps that caretakers can take now to get on the path to a good housing situation down the road.

Information in this section is taken from See the website for more information.

    • A STABLE Account is an investment account available to eligible individuals with disabilities. STABLE Accounts    allow individuals with disabilities to save and invest money without losing eligibility for certain public benefits programs, like Medicaid or SSI. Earnings in your STABLE Account are not subject to federal income tax, so long as you spend them on “Qualified Disability Expenses.”
    • STABLE Accounts have some similar features to normal bank accounts, but they are not checking or savings accounts. STABLE Accounts are investment accounts, similar to 529 college savings accounts or 401(k) retirement accounts. When you deposit money into your STABLE Account, your money will be invested in different options that you choose. While you can still withdraw and spend your money whenever you need it, a STABLE Account  also allows you to grow your money and to save long-term for disability expenses.
    • Caregivers and others can contribute up to $15,000 per year. If a family member with a disability is employed, he/she will be able to contribute more.
    • Money invested in a STABLE Account can be used to cover housing costs. This gives caregivers a way to help plan and invest in future housing costs without jeopardizing public benefits. If a caregiver contributes directly to funding housing costs (without using a STABLE Account), the value is attributed as income to the family member with a disability and could impact the SSI benefit.
    • There are a few simple guidelines provided on the STABLE Account website: Money you withdraw and use for housing expenses may also affect your SSI benefits if you do not spend the money right away. To avoid any impact to your SSI benefits, be sure to spend housing money within the same calendar month that you withdraw the money. For example, if you withdraw $800 from your STABLE Account on June 3rd for rent, you must pay that money to your landlord by June 30th.  As long as you do not hold housing funds over from one calendar month to the next, the funds will not affect your SSI benefits. For more information on how the Social Security Administration will treat STABLE Accounts, see their guidance here.

Created by a Home Think Tank workgroup. 

Information on this sheet is provided for informational purposes only. Nothing in this document should be considered legal or accounting advice. Contact a professional for information pertinent to your specific situation.

© 2022 Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services

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