Finding a new place to live is a big decision. That’s especially true when you have a condition like multiple sclerosis (MS) that limits your mobility. Along with factors like location and size, you also need to consider accessibility when you’re house hunting.
Can your new home accommodate a wheelchair or walker if you need one? Will you have to modify the house to fit your needs? Can you afford the mortgage plus any modifications you’ll need to make?
Fortunately, federal, state, and local governments offer programs to help people with disabilities like MS find affordable housing and pay for it. There are also programs to help you modify your current home.
Both the federal government and the National MS Society can point you to a variety of housing programs.
The government’s Housing Help website offers several resources for people with disabilities. It’s a good first step, whether you want to rent or own your own home.
The National MS Society offers a Guide to Housing where you can explore different housing options and home modifications. The website lists resources by state.
Also, check with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You can search for home buying or rental assistance in your state on their website.
Or contact your Local Public Housing Agency (PHA) to see whether you qualify for housing help.
MS is considered a disability. People with disabilities can take advantage of housing assistance programs, like:
- Public housing. Low-cost homes and apartments are available to low-income families and older adults. You can also qualify if you have a disability like MS, as long as your income is low enough.
- Rent assistance. The government offers reduced rents and vouchers. MS may qualify you to live in low-cost senior housing. Again, your income has to be low enough to qualify for these programs.
- Homeownership vouchers. HUD has a voucher program to help you buy a home. The program also provides a monthly allowance to help cover expenses. You’ll need to be a first-time homeowner and meet income requirements to qualify.
- Home loans. If you live in a rural area, you may be able to get a government loan. You can use this money to buy a home or make your current home more accessible.
Barrier-free means wheelchair accessible. It’s worth thinking about if you use a wheelchair now or you might need one in the future. Barrier-free homes can be hard to find.
There aren’t any laws that require homes to be wheelchair accessible. Disabled homeowners have to build their homes based on their needs. And not all of the accessible homes that are available meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
The website Barrier-Free Home can help. It features accessible homes all over the country within many different price ranges. You can see whether a home has wheelchair ramps, a walk-in shower, and other features to help find the one that best suits your needs.
It also helps to look for a realtor who works with people who have disabilities.
If you aren’t in the market for a new home, you can modify your existing home to make it safer and more accessible. Modifications that are helpful for people with MS include:
- a stairlift
- wide hallways and doorways to fit a wheelchair or walker
- hardwood floors or tile
- a roll-in shower
- handrails and grab bars in the bathroom
- kitchen shelves that slide or drop down
MS adds another element to the search for a home. You need to consider not only whether you can afford the home, but also whether it will fit your needs, both today and in the future.
Here are a few questions to consider when you start to look for a home:
- If MS stops me from working, will I be able to afford my mortgage payments?
- Will the home be accessible if I need to use a wheelchair or walker?
- Can I afford upgrades if I need them?
- Is the home close enough to family and friends who can help me?
- Do I have an extra room, in case I need live-in assistance?
Also, consider how MS affects you when designing the inside of your home. Each room needs to be both accessible and easy to use.
Can you reach shelves and counters? Do you have somewhere to sit when you get tired and tools to help you stay balanced? Is the lighting bright enough for you to see?
If you do need to pay for a new home or modify your current house, these programs can help:
- A home equity line of credit or second mortgage uses the money you’ve invested in your home as collateral to help you afford upgrades.
- 203(K) loans combine a home mortgage with a loan to pay for upgrades.
- Title I property improvement loans are offered by HUD to help homeowners pay for modifications.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs offers grants to veterans with disabilities who want to modify their homes.
If you’re underwater with your mortgage, be careful. Scammers prey on people who’ve gotten behind on their mortgage payments. These people may call themselves mortgage consultants or foreclosure services.
Don’t stop making your mortgage payments or send them to a new company until you’ve talked to the bank that services your loan. Be wary of any company that asks for money upfront. A real mortgage assistance organization will never do that.
Only give out personal information like your Social Security number to companies that you have confirmed are legit. And don’t sign any document until you’ve had a lawyer review it.
You have many things to think about when buying or renting a home. You should consider whether you can afford it, especially if you have to stop working due to MS. And you want to make sure the house is accessible.
Many different resources are available to help you buy and modify a home. Look to the government’s HUD program as well as the National MS Society for advice.