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What is Section 811 Supportive Housing?

by Mexico Expat
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The Section 811 Supportive Housing Program is a program financed through The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) specifically for individuals who have disabilities. It replaced the Section 202 Program of Housing for Handicapped People that was established in 1959. Its aim is to allow those with disabilities to live as independently as possible with select supportive services and housing assistance.

We decided to write this article after feedback from our Section 202 Housing for the Elderly article we wrote. Section 811 Supportive Housing is a bit different, so we hope this article will explain the differences.

How Does Section 811 Work?

Through Section 811, HUD provides funding in the form of interest-free capital advances for the construction or rehabilitation of small group homes, condos, and independent residences designed for those with disabilities. This grant does not have to be repaid as long as the structure is available to low-income individuals with disabilities for a period of 40 years. 

Organizations that wish to apply for Section 811 funds must be private, nonprofit groups with an IRS tax exemption ruling. One of the purposes of the organization must be the welfare of persons with disabilities to qualify.

Rental assistance contracts are also available to those who live in approved Section 811 buildings. HUD agrees to pay the difference between the amount the renters pay and the total cost of the rent. Typically renters pay 30% of their adjusted income towards rent, the remainder being funded through HUD. The rental assistance contracts are available for three years and can be renewed. 

What is Project Rental Assistance?

In addition to the two funding options mentioned above, the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2010 established a Project Rental Assistance program. Since 2012, state housing agencies that have allied themselves with state health and human services or Medicaid agencies can apply for Section 811 funding as well. Under this provision, no money is available to remodel or build appropriate structures since all funds are used as rental assistance. 

Who Qualifies for Section 811?

At least one adult member of a low-income household must have a qualifying disability to apply for Section 811 rental assistance. The combined household income must be within 50% of the median income for the area where the residence is located. Households that wish to apply for Project Rental Assistance must be within 30% median income and one adult member with a disability. 

The family member with the disability must be over the age of 18. In order to qualify, the physical, mental, or emotional impairment of the individual is one of indefinite duration, requiring long-term care. The disability impedes the individual’s ability to live independently in some way. Developmental disabilities must be diagnosed before the person is 22. This type of disability includes those that limit self-care, language expression, learning, mobility, capacity for living independently, or economic self-sufficiency. 

Types of Section 811 Housing

Section 811 Housing can include group homes as well as independent or intermediate care facilities. A group home is a single-family structure with multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, shared living areas, and one bathroom for every four residents. No more than eight residents with disabilities can be housed in a group home and no more than two individuals per bedroom. 

Independent living facilities have several separate apartments with individual kitchens and baths. There could also be group dining areas, community spaces, and laundry areas. This type of residence can house up to 24 individuals with physical or developmental disabilities or up to 20 with chronic mental illnesses. Because some homes may have multiple bedrooms, families can be accommodated more easily in independent living facilities.

Intermediate care facilities must be licensed by Medicaid and receive Title XIX funds. However, they should not be designed as nursing homes. Medical services are provided off-site, and the staff are not trained medical professionals. 

Supportive Care Plans

Section 811 Housing includes supportive care plans. The range of services is often quite varied. Most services are available off-site to maintain the feeling of a residence rather than a hospital setting. Services can include housekeeping assistance, structured recreational or educational activities, medication monitoring, occupational therapy, and social skills training. Although services are available, residents are not required to use any provided as part of their housing arrangements. 

Additional Accessibility Requirements

All remolded or constructed Section 811 Housing projects must have at least:

  • One residence that meets the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards for accessibility, and
  • One residence designed to meet the needs of someone with visual or hearing impairments.

Apartments for people with hearing impairments must contain visual alarms, an electrical outlet next to the telephone outlet to allow for the use of a TDD (telecommunications device for the deaf), peepholes on all external doors, and flashing light doorbells.

Apartments designed for those with visual impairments must include light fixtures capable of handling 150-watt bulbs, cooktop controls with tactile markings, and baseboards, and window frames should be painted in contrasting colors for those that have partial sight.

Additionally, at least one main building entrance must be wheelchair accessible. Common areas and doorways must be at least 32 inches wide for the same reason. Light switches, outlets, and heating/cooling controls must be accessible. Bathrooms should include reinforced walls and be designed for wheelchair accessibility. If the tenant must make further adaptations, they will pay for the modifications rather than the owner. 

Should You Consider Section 811 Supportive Housing?

Although Section 811 is not explicitly designed for the elderly, there may be some situations where it would be to your benefit to apply. If someone in your household is disabled, then relocating to a Section 811 independent living facility may reduce your housing expenditures and provide additional support without needing to wait until retirement age. The option of living with family in an affordable residence for as long as possible makes Section 811 a viable option for many. 

Because demand for housing far outstrips available units, you should apply as soon as your situation warrants it, meaning as soon as an adult in your household becomes disabled. To apply, contact the HUD multifamily regional center or Public Housing Agency (PHA) nearest you.

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