Before making a decision about housing, consider what you need in a place of your own. There are a wide variety of housing options available. If you narrow down what’s important to you, it will be easier to find a place where you will be happy.
A need is something you must have to survive, like a place to live and enough food to eat.
A want is something you might like to have, but you don’t need it to survive and you don’t have to have it right away. You can save to have it later.
The first thing to consider is how much space do you need? If you are living alone, a single-room efficiency or one-bedroom apartment may be enough space. If you will have roommates, you each will probably want your own bedroom. Consider the common living areas as well. Will there be enough room for comfortable seating or social activities? Are there other amenities, such as on-site parking or laundry facilities, that are important to you? Do you have enough space to store your assistive technology (wheelchairs, scooters, Hoyer lift, etc.)?
Once you know how much space you need, look at the types of properties that will fit your needs. Apartment buildings contain single-story rental units that usually share a main entrance. These buildings may be small, as few as four units, or bigger complexes of several buildings. Some have elevators, some do not. Condominiums are similar to apartment buildings except the units are purchased, not rented. Townhouses are rows of attached, multi-story units with individual entrances, giving it more of a house-like feel. Townhouses can be rented or purchased. Lastly, there are single-family homes that can also be rented or purchased.
The most beautiful home with the perfect amount of space for your needs may still fall short if it isn’t in the ideal location. If you have a neighborhood or specific area in which you want to live, that’s a good place to start. However, you may also want to consider distance to a job, family and friends, grocery store, a pharmacy, your bank, etc. Will you need access to public transportation or other frequently used services? Being close to the things that are important to you or that you need, can make a big difference in your quality of life.
Depending on your individual situation, make sure that the unit you are considering has the accessibility that you need. For example, is the kitchen space adequate for meal preparation? Are the doorways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair? Are their door levers instead of knobs? Does the bathroom have grab bars in the shower? Is there a ramp or elevator that will accommodate your wheelchair?
If you are receiving a housing waiver or subsidy, the federal law requires landlords to make reasonable changes or accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services so that a person with a disability has an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a housing unit. If you are renting from a private landlord, reasonable changes are required but you will be responsible for the cost of changes. You may also have to return the unit to its original condition when moving out. Learn more about fair housing and reasonable accommodations.
If you need help with mobility or you are a wheelchair user, consider choosing a single-story or first-floor apartment—elevators are great, but sometimes they break down or aren’t usable if there is an emergency.
Once you have determined what you need and where you want to live, it’s time to find a place! That may not be as easy as it sounds. The perfect unit or place may not be available in the neighborhood you want. The perfect unit may be more expensive than you can afford. There may be a waiting list for the perfect unit if you are using a subsidy. You may have to look in a different neighborhood, adjust the type of housing, or look into other affordability options. Be flexible on the things you want (but not necessarily on the things you need), adjust what you’re looking for as necessary, and just keep looking!
Houses and apartments are listed for rent and for sale all the time—just because you don’t see what you’re looking for today, doesn’t mean it won’t show up next week or next month. You can search for apartments at PAHousingSearch.com.
Activity 18 on the next screen will help you think through which housing options are needs, and which housing options you might be able to be more flexible about.