By Maggie Pierce
It’s well known that many people with disabilities face unique challenges in finding a sustainable, inclusive home. In the face of growing uncertainty around government sponsored housing programs, families are now considering other housing options for their family member with a disability.
Property ownership is one option that is gaining popularity among families as a way to provide a secure and lasting home for their loved one. Co-ownership with other families and/or a non-profit organization, can make this an affordable option for more people, and provide the foundation for a planned network for all family members. This article will outline the financial, legal, and real estate steps to a successful purchase of an inclusive home.
As with any property purchase, each family should first consult with a financial planner, and where necessary with a lending institution or mortgage broker, to obtain pre-approval for mortgage financing. Each family should then take the additional step of consulting with a wills, trusts and estates lawyer who is experienced in creating legal models of ownership that reflect the interests of both the family and the family member with a disability. In particular, the family can select the ownership model that best addresses how certain assets may affect any disability income and programs. Throughout this early planning phase, families will want to consult with their realtor about the real estate implications of these preliminary financial and legal decisions.
Those who are purchasing a property as a co-owner with other families and/or a non-profit organization, should also consult with a lawyer to draft a co-ownership agreement. This agreement will set out the financial, legal, domestic and relationship aspects of the housing arrangement. Each of the co-owners should also have their own lawyer review the agreement.
Families will now be in a good position to begin actively working with their realtor to buy an inclusive home—whether it’s a condo, townhouse, house or multi-unit residence. Ultimately, this home should provide an interior design, property and community that together will create the physical centre for a future personal support network for their loved one. A realtor should be able and willing to thoroughly evaluate each property for its potential to be renovated or redeveloped to an inclusive home standard.
An inclusive interior design provides a functional environment that will keep everyone safe and comfortable, no matter what their current and future physical abilities may be. Inclusive design can also lead to less reliance and expense over time on home and community care services and lighten the work of family caregivers, and even prevent a move into institutional care. By allowing a family member with a disability to age in place with dignity, it can avoid the disruption and expense of having to sell in order to find another, inclusive home. Finally, should the family decide to sell, an inclusive home will allow them to access a broader, more valuable home buyers’ market.
Similarly, an inclusive property will allow everyone to move with ease between the interior of the home and the street, and among the property’s outdoor amenities. Ideally the property will offer space to enjoy the outdoors and social occasions. An inclusive neighbourhood will extend this physical network through navigable walkways and a safe street life; with nearby transit, shopping, community and medical services, parks and recreation, and gathering places to meet old and new friends.
Families will have peace of mind knowing that this home will meet the changing needs of their family member with a disability, as well as those of visiting family and friends, as they all grow through the stages of life. Financial and legal planning, and working with a realtor knowledgeable about inclusive homes and personal support networks, will help ensure that this home becomes the heart of a future good life.
Maggie Pierce, B.S.W., LL.B., is a REALTOR® with Prudential Sussex working across the B.C. lower mainland. She specializes in buying and selling homes for people of all ages and abilities. You may contact Maggie on her direct, confidential telephone line at 604-202-0161, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.