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Welcome to the DSO Housing Toolkit

This toolkit is a library of housing resources put together by DSO staff, with input from people in similar situations, to help you create a housing plan. If you choose to use the My housing plan form, Step 1 will provide you with tools to complete it. Additional steps within the toolkit will help you to fill in any gaps in your housing plan. For example, Step 2 "Reviewing housing options and locations" will help if you are not sure where you want to live, and Step 3 "Financing the Plan" will help you explore funding opportunities.

The toolkit has been organized into 6 Steps to make it easier for you to work through the information. Click on each step below to access information, resources, tools and expert advice from our staff, families, partner agencies and organizations.

If you need help going through the toolkit, or you would like to investigate alternative or additional resources, call your area DSO and ask for help with housing navigation, or connect with us online. If you’re not sure which DSO agency to contact, go to our Find your area DSO page for the one near you.


Step 1:
Exploring and understanding housing needs and wants, and creating your housing plan

To create your housing plan, the first step you will have to take is to explore and discover your strengths, needs and desires. This section will help you learn how to:

  1. create your vision,
  2. understand strengths and needs,
  3. use technology to increase independence, and
  4. build a support team.

You can also listen to our DSO Podcast: Exploring Individualized Housing, which will help you explore and understand housing needs and wants so that you can get started on your house planning journey.


Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

A. Create your vision

Your vision is the foundation of your housing plan. It is a description of your hopes and dreams and it answers the following information gathering questions: who, what, when, where, and how. For example, where would you like to live? Who would you like to live with?

Why do I need to have a vision?

It is difficult to develop a plan without understanding what you hope to achieve or how you hope to spend your time on a daily basis. Your vision will identify what is important to you and what will bring you happiness.

Does my vision need to be realistic?

No. Your vision just needs to describe where you see yourself in a perfect world. In fact, starting with a blank canvas is very important. Your housing vision should be about you, not what services or supports you think you can access or obtain. The goal of the housing plan is to bring you as close as possible to your larger vision.

What will my housing vision provide to my support team?

Your housing vision will provide your support team with a clear statement and overall purpose. It will provide the team with inspiration and help to motivate them. The vision will allow your team to “check-in” to ensure that everything is moving in the right direction. Read the build a support team section of this toolkit to understand how to create your support team.

Should I update my housing vision?

Yes. Your housing vision needs to be updated (or at least reviewed) on a yearly basis because your vision will change based on your life experiences. As you learn about other housing plans, your vision may change as well.

Determining where you want to live

When determining where you want to live, there are many things to consider besides the geographic location. It is important to consider all your options and possibilities. Filling out the My housing vision and My home evaluation documents in the Resources section below will help you explore and list what is important to you and meets your needs and wants.


Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

B. Understand strengths and needs

Once you have created your vision for your housing plan, you are ready to work on identifying what you have (strengths) and what you need to make your plan come to life so you can live as independently as possible. Fill out the inventory checklist below to help you review your current situation.

Inventory checklist

Print the table

1. Do you have any of the following documents that support that you have a developmental disability?
  • a psychological assessment
  • an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
2. Have you applied for ministry-funded adult developmental services through your area DSO?
3. Have you completed an application package through your area DSO (if eligible)?
4. Do you have support from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
5. Do you have Passport funding (for community supports, respite, PDP, facilitation support, etc.)?
6. Do you receive a disability tax credit?
7. Do you have a Registered Disability Savings Plan (e.g. RDSP)?
8. Do you have a Henson Trust to protect assets and government funding like ODSP?
9. Are you aware of other government rebates, programs, subsidies and credits to support your planning?
10. Are you aware of other financial assets and resources that you may already have, or that may be available to you (e.g. the potential to build a secondary suite in the family home as a transitional space)

Review your checklist answers and understand how they will help you build your housing plan

Let’s review the 10 questions so you can understand why they’re important to the foundation of your housing plan.

  1. Documents that support that you have a developmental disability
    In order for you to apply for different government-funded programs, rebates, subsidies and credits, it’s important that you provide information and documentation to support that you have a developmental disability. These documents can include:
    • a psychological assessment
    • an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

    Documentation is required to apply for services through the DSO. You can be confirmed eligible for adult developmental services at age 16, although the services will not start until age 18. In some cases, you can use your eligibility in one program to apply for other programs. For example, if you are eligible for adult developmental services through DSO, you can use your eligibility letter to simplify the process of applying for ODSP.

  2. Applying for adult developmental services through your area DSO

    When you turn 18, you are an adult. Children’s services such as Special Services at Home, Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities or services through the Ontario Autism Program end. You must apply to Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) to see if you are eligible for adult developmental services.

  3. Completing an application package through DSO

    If you are eligible for ministry-funded adult developmental services, you will be asked to attend 2 meetings to complete an application package. Once the application package is completed, a DSO staff person will create a report that summarizes your support needs. You will receive a copy of these documents to help build your housing plan. If you don’t have a copy of this report, you can contact your area DSO and request it from them. These documents will help you add more information to the About me and My housing vision documents that you filled out when you were creating your vision in Step 1a.

  4. ODSP support

    If you have a disability and need help with your living expenses, you may be eligible for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). ODSP offers financial assistance to help you and your family with essential living expense; benefits, for you and your family, including prescription drugs and vision care. ODSP can also help you to find or maintain a job or advance your career.

  5. Passport funding

    The Passport program helps adults 18 years or older with a developmental disability to participate in their communities. It provides funding for services and supports so eligible adults with a developmental disability can:

    • take part in community classes or recreational programs,
    • find work, volunteer or develop daily life skills,
    • hire a support worker
    • hire an independent facilitator to create their own life plans (also called person-directed planning) to reach their goals (including the development of a housing plan),
    • get temporary respite for their caregivers.

    The Passport program is funded by the Ontario Government and is administered by local Passport Agencies.

  6. Disability Tax Credit

    To qualify for Ontario Disability Tax Credit, you must have a mental or physical impairment that severely limits the day-to-day activities of life. Once you have qualified for the Disability Tax Credit in Ontario, you are eligible for yearly savings. Although circumstances vary, you may be eligible for a savings of C$1,600 per year.

  7. The Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)

    RDSP is a savings plan that can be set up for a person who is eligible for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) to help save for your financial future and security. You or your caregiver can make personal contributions to an RDSP. The federal government also offers grants and bonds to help your plan grow. Partners for Planning has prepared some helpful information to explain the benefits of an RDSP.

  8. Henson Trust

    This planning tool can be very useful when planning for your financial future. It is also known as a discretionary trust, which means that it can be put in place to protect the assets of the person with a developmental disability while also preserving their ability to access government benefits, such as ODSP. Partners for Planning has prepared some helpful information on the Henson Trust.

  9. Other Government Programs

    Sometimes there are municipal, provincial or local government programs that may assist with your housing plan development. For example, if you need to renovate your home some municipalities may have grants available through the Ontario Renovates Program. Your Housing Navigator can help you find out what may be available for your unique situation.

  10. Understanding financial assets / resources

    Have you identified the resources you and your family may contribute? Are you clear on what resources you or your family have that may contribute to your housing plan? For example, space within the family home to create a second unit or family financial resources that could be used to fund rent or supports? Your Housing Navigator can help you find out what may be available for your unique situation.

Strengthen your life skills

While you’re working on your housing plan it is important that you also work on building your life skills so that you can become more independent both at home and in the community. Strengthening these skills may help you to decrease your need for paid supports.

Here are some examples of things you can do to help you become more self-reliant depending on your vision:

  1. If your vision is to live without a support person present

    With the right preparation and coaching, you may learn to be safe on your own. Here are some programs that might be available to you in your community; contact your local housing navigator with inquiries about local options:

    • Safety for Independent Living is a course that has been created to help youth and adults with developmental disabilities feel safe in all their usual places: home, work, school, online and in the community. Through games, digital media, video and colourful graphics, this comprehensive 8 to 10 hour safety program empowers people with tools to make confident choices and live a safe life.
    • First Aid Training teaches you life-saving skills. You can register for a class through your local municipality, Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance or local Community Living organization.
    • Trying it on for Size is a program that will support someone to live within a monitored environment to assess strengths and learn the necessary skills to live as independently as possible.

    Once you have completed some basic safety training, you should begin practicing being alone in a familiar setting. It’s best to start with short amounts of time and gradually increase the time. You can use technology to help support your safety. Review the technology section of this toolkit to learn how to use it to help support your needs.

  2. If your vision is to live with a support worker/person present

    It’s important to increase your comfort level with other people both in your home and out in the community. You may want to ask members of your support team, or hire a small group of staff, to come spend time with you in your home to help you build skills and independence in areas of need. Slowly increase the amount of time in the home with support people or staff until you are staying overnight with them. Gradually begin moving out of your home and into the community so you can practice the skills you’ve learned outside of your home environment.

  3. Important steps to take regardless of your vision

    Even if you are not ready to be home alone, here are some important steps you can begin to work on to help you become more independent:

    • document routines and support person/staff expectations that will be needed when you transition into your individualized residential model
    • increase responsibilities in the home, such as making your own lunches and snacks, or choosing what you would like to purchase (groceries and meal planning)
    • seize opportunities to make choices and learn how to solve problems
    • increase your independence skills, such as completing your morning routine
    • incorporate smart technology into your plan, when and if needed, to provide safeguards and to connect with others

Using respite services to test housing options

When building your housing plan, it can be difficult to determine the housing options that will or won’t work for you. A great way to figure out what might work best is to use respite services to test different residential settings and types of support/staffing.

Out-of-home respite is an opportunity to try some different options and gain valuable feedback/insight into what might work. Take a look at available options at respiteservices.com. You may also want to consider an overnight camp as a first experience.

Out-of-home respite is valuable because it allows you to:

  • explore what setting you like most.
  • try different support staff and types of support.
  • live with other potential housemates, before a commitment.
  • make new friends.
  • practice new skills and gain confidence.
  • understand potential staff needs, support needs and related costs when developing the plan.

If there are no out-of-home respite options available in your community, consider creating your own by:

  • renting a suite in a hotel, motel, Airbnb or similar and hiring support staff
  • contacting a local Community Living and asking them if they have a suitable program or if they could develop a fee-for-service program
  • asking a relative or friend to allow you to stay with them
  • staying alone in your home for a period of time without any family

Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

C. Use technology to increase independence

Using technology in your housing plan can help you to build independence, autonomy and self-confidence. It can also decrease the amount of paid supports required, potentially making your plan more affordable. It can also help you with physical and cognitive challenges.

What is a smart product?

Smart products have information technology (IT) in them that lets you control or operate the devices by using your voice, or through a smart phone, tablet or computer. That is what makes them “smart.”

What is a smart home?

A smart home is a home equipped with lighting, heating and electronic devices that you can control remotely through a smart phone, tablet or computer. For example, you can check on your home through the internet and control various appliances to make sure dinner is cooking, the central heating is on, the curtains are drawn, the home is vacuumed, and a gas fire is roaring in the grate when you get home.

What is an app?

An app is an application, or software that can run through your smart phone, tablet, computer, or other electronic devices. Apps may or may not require a connection to the internet to work. Mobile apps are software applications that run on a smart phone. There are some made just for Apple products (iOS) and others that runs on most other smart phones/tablets like Samsung, Lenovo, Google, etc. (Android).

Building technology into your housing plan

The use of technology can increase your independence and help to lower your support costs. There are many ways that you can build the use of technology into your housing plan. Here are some success stories to help inspire your plan:

Success stories:



Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

D. Build a support team

This section of the toolkit will help you consider what natural or unpaid supports are available in your life and how they may help you live as independently as possible. Natural supports are another resource that can reduce the costs associated with your housing plan. You can use the relationship circle document to record your relationships. The relationship circle document will serve as another component of your housing plan document. Once completed, you can use it to guide you in exploring who you may wish to invite to be a part of the team that will help to support your housing plan.

Natural and formal supports

Building your support team is very important when creating a housing plan. The first step is to determine the who you might have and need in your life. The goal for a person-directed planning team is to support you in achieving your hopes, plans and dreams. Teams are built on relationships, trust and a common purpose. There are 2 types of team members to consider.

  1. Natural supports: These are unpaid people in your life. They may include family and friends. They sometimes include people who used to be formal supports (e.g. a former teacher), who have become friends over time.

    Some natural supports that you may want to invite to join your support team may include:

    • parents and siblings,
    • cousins,
    • friends, spouses or kids of siblings,
    • neighbours,
    • past teachers,
    • past educational assistants,
    • past instructors or coaches,
    • family friends,
    • spiritual/faith-based supports/friends,
    • peers or classmates and their families,
    • volunteer or employment friendsk,
    • community members (i.e. local business owners, groups, etc.),
    • college/university students in DS studies (shared living) and
    • local seniors looking for help or to provide support (shared living).

    To help identify your support team, start with your own family and brainstorm. List all the people who have been in your life and have shown interest in maintaining a relationship. If you are creating a formal team, you will want to invite interested people to participate in planning meetings and activities. This team can be as small as 3 or as large as 10 to 12 people. Teams are dynamic and will change with time; relationships grow, change and adjust depending on our activities and interests. As we begin exploring new activities, we often begin building relationships.

    One example of utilizing natural supports would be to turn a finished basement into a legal secondary suite for a student studying for a Developmental Services program at a local college. You may already know of a student in your neighbourhood/community that you could provide affordable housing to and in turn they gain invaluable experience by providing ‘soft supports’, friendship and mentorship for a person with a developmental disability, plus provide potential respite for the caregivers.

    Another example could be for retired seniors in your community (again, could be someone you already know) that are looking to share their homes with a person (or 2) in exchange for mutual support and companionship. There is much to be gained from inter-generational and inter-ability relationships; knowledge, experience and new perspectives.


  2. Formal supports: These are people who have a paid relationship with you, either through government funded resources or private funds. They might be support staff from a local agency, your swimming instructor, a teacher, etc.

    Some formal supports that you may want to invite to join your support team may include:

    • local agencies and associations,
    • teachers,
    • educational assistants,
    • direct support worker (respite staff),
    • case manager/case coordinators,
    • local health integration network staff/supports,
    • doctor or other health professionals and
    • camp or private respite agency staff.

Identifying team members

Once you have your relationship circle completed, you can begin to identify those who may be potential team members to provide some support within your housing plan. Have conversations with those within your relationship circle. You should:

  • share your goal of finding and living in your own place, with the right supports.
  • share your hope to have some friends to bounce ideas off and to problem solve arising issues.
  • let them know you value their input and experiences.
  • explain that you are forming a team of support to help you achieve your vision and goals.

People who are willing to help you in your housing journey can be added to your My support needs document. Try as much as you can to get help from your friends and family to keep your housing plan more affordable.

Expanding your support team/community

Team members can change based on your engagement in the community. For example, the more community activities you participate in, the more opportunities you will have to meet new people and build relationships. Over time, the people you connect with may be interested in providing natural or informal supports.

A strong team can provide the ongoing supports you will require. Relationships can be challenging to develop and maintain for many people. It can be helpful to engage the services of a facilitator or designate a member of your team who will focus energy towards maintaining and/or growing your supports. Team members may leave due to personal or life commitments (move to a new location, children of their own, etc.). Because of this, you should always be looking at inviting new people to join your team.

Expanding your team should be intentional. It can be beneficial to complete an annual review and set goals related to the maintenance and growth of your team. A balanced team may include:

  • people of your (similar) age, as they have similar experiences and may be around longer
  • as many natural and unpaid supports as possible
  • people who know you well and choose to spend time with you
  • formal supports, or paid supports, either hired privately or accessed through the government-funded options (passport workers, funded agencies, local municipal programs, personal support workers from your Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), etc.)

Connecting with in-home supports

Connect with your local government-funded health services through the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) to access funded in-home supports. These services are available to eligible Ontario residents of any age and are fully funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Some of these services can:

  • assess and arrange for home visits from a health professional.
  • assess and manage admissions to long-term care facilities.
  • assess and manage admissions to certain adult day programs, supportive housing and assisted living programs, and chronic care and rehabilitation facilities.
  • provide information and referrals about other community agencies and services.
  • coordinate nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, dietician services, pharmacy services, diagnostic and laboratory services, respiratory therapy, social work, social service work, personal support and homemaking.

Adding sustainability to your plan

To add sustainability to your plan, you should build a more formal structure of friends and family to help support you.

  • Community circles: A community circle brings two or more people together around someone who wants a little help to make a change in their life. That change can be anything – from getting out and about more, expanding social life or living more independently in the community.
  • Microboards: A microboard is an autonomous group of at least 5 committed family and friends who join with you to create a supportive not-for-profit corporation. This is helpful for funding flow through, gathering assistance from areas of finance, health, community.

Need more resources?

Here’s a list of some provincial organizations that may be able to help you connect with more local resources.

211 Ontario
Helps you find information about programs and services in your community.

Arch Disability Law Centre
Arch Disability Law Centre is a specialty community legal aid clinic dedicated to defending and advancing the equality rights of people with disabilities in Ontario. ARCH provides legal services to help Ontarians with disabilities live with dignity and participate fully in our communities.

Canadian Red Cross
Canadian Red Cross offers an extensive network of programs and services that actively reach out and serve local communities throughout the province.

Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodations (CERA)
CERA is a not-for-profit charity that defends housing rights and human rights by educating people and communities, advancing progressive and inclusive housing law and policy, and providing legal information and services to marginalized Ontarians.

Government of Ontario
The Government of Ontario website provides information and a search portal for health care options. One of the listed options is home and community care services.

Intentional Community Consortium
Intentional Community Consortium solves the affordable housing crisis nationwide for people with developmental disabilities. They provide information based on their experience and expertise in planning housing options.

Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs)
LHINs plan, integrate and fund local health care, improving access and patient experience. Supports may include: nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, dietician services, pharmacy services, diagnostic and laboratory services, respiratory therapy, social work, social service work, personal support and homemaking.

March of Dimes Canada
March of Dimes Canada provides funding for basic home and/or vehicle modifications for Ontarians who experience a substantial impairment that is expected to last one year or more. Modifications air aimed at enabling people with mobility restrictions to continue living in their homes, avoid job loss, and participate in their communities.

Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA)
ONPHA leads, unites and supports a strong community-based affordable housing sector that helps to build vibrant, healthy and diverse communities for all Ontarians.

Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA)
OCSA is the voice of the home and community care sector. It is a valuable resource for learning about and connecting with home and community support services for seniors and people with disabilities. This website includes a directory for home care and community support services.

P4P Planning Network
Provides free resources designed to empower you, your family and caregiver(s).

St. Elizabeth Health Care
St. Elizabeth Health Care provides a variety of services including home support which could include meal planning and preparation, grocery shopping, laundry, light housekeeping, etc. These services are all available for a fee.

Trillium Drug Program (TDP)
TDP helps you pay for your high prescription-drug costs.

Victorian Order of Nurses (VON)
VON provides a variety of services. Their nurses, personal support workers, therapists and other health care providers care for Canadians in their homes, communities and workplaces.

Private health supports covered by OHIP:

House call doctors
National Home Doctor

Dental and dental hygiene house calls
EPICITI Mobile Dental Care

Mobile lab services for blood work and other lab needs
LifeLabs

Step 2: Reviewing housing options and locations

Many people with developmental disabilities and their families think that Developmental Services is their only option to find affordable housing. That’s just one of many options. Take a look at our Types of housing supporting document to figure out what kind of environment you are looking for. This section of the toolkit will highlight different housing options that you may wish to consider for yourself. You will also find a variety of resources and supporting documents that were put together to help you in your search for housing.

This section will help you find the information and resources to:

  1. rent a place to live,
  2. purchase a home,
  3. create a secondary suite,
  4. overview indigenous housing options,
  5. retrofit an existing structure, and
  6. understand your options if there is no housing in your area.

Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

A. Rent a place to live

Renting a place is a good option which can be less of a financial commitment than purchasing a property. You will likely need to save for first and last month’s rent and a security deposit, but overall, the up-front costs of renting tend to be lower. Ideally, the cost of your rent and utilities should be less than 30% of your overall (gross) income. Rental rates vary from city to city and neighbourhood to neighbourhood, but the monthly cost of renting can often be lower compared to the costs associated with purchasing a home. In addition to renting within the private market, it’s recommended to explore what community housing may be available in your area, and to make sure you register the waiting lists (wait times can be long, so plan ahead).

When you enter the rental market, you will be responsible for paying monthly rent and possibly utilities. It’s a good idea to purchase tenant’s insurance, which will have a monthly fee. Although you will be responsible for treating the space with respect and keeping it clean and tidy, you will look to your landlord to take care of any maintenance or repairs that are required.

Know what you want and need

When looking for a rental, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I want to live in a busy urban area?
  • Do I prefer a quite more suburban area?
  • Do I need to be close to work, school, recreational activities/clubs, family, friends, etc.?
    If so what location would be ideal? ___________________________________
  • Do I need to be located close to public transit?
  • Do I need to have shops and services in walking distance (grocery store, bank, gym, etc.)?

Your budget will be an important factor during your search for housing. It will be helpful to research the average cost of rent in your preferred location(s). You will need to be able to afford rent and utilities and still have money left over for groceries, other bills (tenant’s insurance, telephone, internet, cable, technology subscriptions, etc.) and the things you like to do for fun. When researching possible neighborhoods, you will want to look for an area where you feel safe and able to access your local surroundings freely.

Have you thought about what type of a rental you are interested in looking for? You could rent a unit in an apartment or condo building. Do you want somewhere with an elevator, or will your search include buildings with walk-up access (stairs)? Would you consider renting a house, or a part of a house (e.g. basement apartment)? What type of amenities are you looking for? Units in a building or condo may include common space, like a library or party room. They don’t always offer outdoor space like a back garden or patio, which you may be more likely to find when renting a house. What type of laundry facilities are you looking for? Would you prefer laundry in your unit or in common room in the building, or are you comfortable with accessing a laundromat? Is there a laundromat close by? How does technology factor into your plan? Is it important to have access to reliable access to internet? You can complete the My rental home needs supporting document to figure out your rental home needs. Also, renting a house or part of a house may mean responsibilities such as shoveling snow and/or cutting the grass, whereas an apartment unit or condo usually doesn’t require this kind of responsibilities.

Depending on your location, there are a variety of places you may begin looking for rental housing. You can contact your local DSO housing navigator for suggestions. Some housing navigators may have access to a list of affordable housing postings in their area. There may be listings online and some municipalities have community organizations that help with finding housing. You may find bulletin boards within local community centers, libraries, places of worship, grocery stores, coffee shops, etc. Another possible option is through word of mouth, speak to your family and members of your network to see if they have heard of any opportunities.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has put together some useful information for those looking to rent. We highly encourage you to visit their website for more information, such as:

  • Things to consider before renting
  • Visiting the rental property
  • Signing the lease
  • Credit checks and bad credit
  • Rental payments and deposits

Community housing (also known as subsidized housing or social housing) and affordable housing

Community and affordable housing is housing that is created with government support to ensure that it is more affordable for low-income households. Government assistance can be provided in various forms, including funding, free or reduced-cost access to land, access to lower mortgage rates, etc. Access to community housing is managed by Coordinated Access Centers across the province.

Subsidized housing (or Rent-Geared-to-Income)

This type of housing is subsidized by the government and is available at a lower cost to the renter. The amount of rent you pay is calculated based on your total household income, usually it works out to approximately 30% of your gross monthly income. If you are receiving Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), your rent would be calculated based on your monthly rent benefit rather than your gross monthly income. Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) units are available in publicly owned social housing as well as co-ops, non-profit housing and the private market. For more information on applying for subsidized housing, contact your local DSO housing navigator, or Coordinated Access Centre.

In addition to subsidized housing, there are several other programs that have been created to offset the cost of housing for low and middle income people and families. More information about these programs can be found through your Coordinated Access Centre. Some of these programs include:

  • Rent supplement is paid to landlords on behalf of households in need of rental assistance (e.g. Rent-Geared-to-Income, or RGI). In most cases, the rent for a subsidized unit is set at 30% of a household’s total monthly income before taxes and adjustments. Rental supplements can be maintained if the household continues to meet eligibility criteria and follow program requirements (e.g. submitting to an annual review of income and assets).
  • Housing allowance is a fixed monthly subsidy that is paid to the renter and is portable. This means that it can be used in the private housing market anywhere in the province of Ontario. The allowance usually lasts for several years. Allowances are often targeted towards specific populations (e.g. homeless, survivors of domestic abuse, or human trafficking).
  • Affordable rental housing would be a unit for which rent is set at between 80% and 100% of the average market rent in your community (as determined by CMHC). The rent and how you apply for these units will vary by municipality. In some cases, there will be an application form available through the Coordinated Access Centre. In other municipalities, the units are managed independently through the organizations or developers that created them. For more information on applying for an affordable unit, contact your local DSO housing navigator or Coordinated Access Centre.
  • Supportive housing is affordable housing that is linked to supports that allow people to live independently in the community. Supportive housing can be beneficial for many populations, including those living with physical and/or developmental disabilities, seniors, and people living with mental issues and/or addictions.
  • Alternative housing is social housing from a provider who is mandated to provide housing to households that are exiting homelessness. There is an emphasis on support to encourage community integration and the maintenance of stable housing.
  • Domiciliary hostels are private or non-profit residences that provide long-term housing to vulnerable adults who require some supervision and services to maintain their independent living. Residents are typically living with a psychiatric, developmental or physical illness and/or disability. These are not available in all areas so check with the Coordinated Access Centre in your area.

Basic eligibility for subsidized housing, or Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) in Ontario

You can apply for Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) housing if you meet the following criteria:

  • At least one member of the household is 16 years or older
  • At least one member of the household can live independently, with or without support services
  • Each member of the household can prove status in Canada as one of the following:
    • a Canadian citizen,
    • a permanent resident of Canada,
    • an applicant for Canadian permanent resident status, or
    • a refugee claimant or convention refugee.

Wait times for subsidized housing

The demand for subsidized housing is greater than the availability. Wait times tend to be long and vary from region to region. Contact your local Coordinated Access Centre for more information.

Priority access for subsidized housing

Across the province there are populations who have been identified to require priority or faster access to subsidized housing. These groups include:

  • Survivors of domestic abuse or human trafficking
  • Terminally ill patients with less than two years to live

In some regions, other populations may be identified as priority groups. Contact your local DSO housing navigator or your local Coordinated Access Centre for more information.

Accessibility and special needs

Requests can be made for accessible buildings and other accommodations required to meet an applicant’s mobility or special needs (e.g. ramps, automatic doors and doorways, etc.). Modified units can be provided to applicants who are physically disabled and who use a wheelchair on a full-time basis. Modifications may include features such as grab bars, lowered countertops, and wider doorframes. In some cases, there may be the option of applying for an additional bedroom when a resident requires the care of an overnight caregiver or space for medical equipment.

Mandate housing

Mandate housing is housing that is operated by providers who are mandated to serve people from specific populations. For example, a mandate may require tenants to be seniors, artists or members of a specific cultural community. Your local DSO housing navigator, or Coordinated Access Centre can provide you with more information.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about social housing

Q: Whether you’re creating your own plan, or waiting for Ministry funded residential supports; why should you consider applying for social housing?
A: Access to housing you can afford is a key element to maintaining sustainable housing. It’s always good to explore all available resources.
Q: How can I apply for social housing?
A: In many regions, applications for social housing can be made online, in person or by mail. Your local DSO housing navigator can provide you with more information.
Q: I might be interested in accessing social housing in the future, but I’m not yet ready to move; when should I apply?
A: The wait times for social housing vary from region to region; in some cases, the wait can be as long as 12+ years. It’s beneficial to remain familiar with approximate wait times in your area and to apply well in advance of when you will be looking to move. Your Coordinated Access Centre can provide you with more information regarding the wait times.
Q: How is the waitlist for social housing managed
A: For those who do not meet criteria for priority access, contact your local DSO housing navigator or Coordinated Access Centre for more information. The waiting list is currently managed on a first-come-first-served basis.
Q: As a caregiver(s), I/we don’t meet the eligibility criteria for social housing, could my/our loved one still be eligible?
A: If your loved-one meets the eligibility criteria for social housing (16 years or older, can live independently or has access to the support they require to live independently, meets residency and income requirements), they could make an application independent of you and may be eligible.
Q: When applying for social housing, can I choose where I want to live?
A: When completing or updating your application for social housing, you can select one or more buildings that you would be interested in moving to. You will want to make these selections carefully and only choose buildings where you really want to live. You may refuse a unit, but you should be aware that this may cancel your application and you will need to re-apply. This means that you would begin waiting again at the bottom of the list. The number of buildings you select could have an impact on the wait time for housing.
Q: If I register for Rent-Geared-to-Income, will I also be considered for the portable Housing Allowances?
A: Housing Allowances are generally targeted towards specific groups (e.g. those experiencing chronic homelessness or survivors of domestic abuse, etc.) and a separate application is required.
Q: What do I need to do while I wait?
A: Make sure you are aware of your obligation to maintain your eligibility. Policies vary by region. In some cases, you must confirm your interest in remaining on the Centralized Waiting List for housing every 12 months. You must also notify your Coordinated Access Centre of any changes to your information (e.g. address or phone number).
Q: If I’m receiving a housing allowance and accept a Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) unit, will I lose my Housing Allowance?
A: Yes; getting a housing allowance should not change your status on a waiting list. However, if someone receiving a housing allowance accepts an offer of rent-geared-to-income housing, they will no longer be able to receive the monthly housing allowance.

Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

B. Purchase a home

When you think of purchasing a home, it may be helpful for you to make a ‘wish list’ that identifies your needs in a home and neighbourhood. Would you prefer a home in the city? Or, would you prefer a suburban neighbourhood or rural location? How much space and how many bedrooms will you need? Is it important for you to have access to outdoor space such as a balcony or yard? Is there a need for parking? What local amenities and transit options will you need? Does the home need to be located close to school, work, recreational facilities and/or health care services? To help you with your home purchase needs, complete the My home purchase needs supporting document. When completing this document, it’s important that you differentiate between preferences and necessities.

Once you have a better idea of what you’re looking for, you will likely need to examine if you have the financial resources necessary to move forward with purchasing a home. Below are some things that may be useful to consider when exploring this option:

  • The average cost of a home/condo (of the size you need) in the area or areas you consider living
  • The cost of housing (mortgage payment, property taxes, utilities and maintenance fees where applicable) should be no more than 32% of your average gross monthly income
  • Your monthly debt load (cost of housing, loans, leases, credit card payments/line of credit payments, other mortgage payments) should be no greater than 40% of your average gross monthly income
  • What will your upfront costs be? (down payment, home inspection/appraisal fees, insurance costs, land registration fee, legal and real estate fees, taxes, moving costs, necessary repairs or renovations, etc.)

There are many budgeting tools and mortgage calculators available to assist you as you consider the financial responsibilities of purchasing a home. Here are some Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) links that you may find helpful:

Once you have worked out a budget, you may wish to arrange a meeting with a credit counselor or potential lenders and see if you can get pre-approved for a mortgage, or what steps you may need to consider to work towards this goal (e.g. save more money, pay off debt/loans, reconsider your wish-list). You can also complete the Is purchasing a home right for me? supporting document to figure out if purchasing a home is the right choice for you.

Where can you look for financial incentives/assistance?

  • First time home buyer incentive
    A new program that offers 5% of a first time buyer’s purchase of existing homes, and 5 or 10% of a first time buyer’s purchase of a new build.
  • Home Buyers Amount
    If you are a first-time home buyer, you may qualify for a $5000.00 tax credit.
  • Home Ownership Program
    This program provides you with down payment assistance for the purchase of an affordable home. It serves current renters interested in purchasing a home.
  • Show Me The Green
    In some areas there may be forgivable loans and/or grants available to homeowners and landlords for major repairs, to add habitable living space to remediate overcrowding, for accessibility modifications, to create secondary/garden suites or repair and rehabilitate shelter units that assist victims of family violence. Show Me the Green provides information and links to regionally specific opportunities. You can also contact your local DSO housing navigator for more information.
  • The Home Buyers' Plan (HBP)
    This is a program that allows you to withdraw up to $35,000 in a calendar year from your registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) to buy or build a qualifying home for yourself or for a related person with a disability.

Non-profit housing developers

Non-profit housing developers have various models and strategies they use to keep costs associated with building down, so that they can pass on the savings to their customers. In some cases, they may offer benefits such as down-payment assistance. Speak to your local DSO housing navigator to learn about programs in your area.

Habitat for Humanity (HFH)

Applying for a Habitat for Humanity (HFH) home could be an alternative to waiting for a ministry funded housing option. HFH homes do not have to be built just for one family where all members are related. There are many types of ‘intentional families’ that could comprise 3 or 4 unrelated people who choose to live together. Imagine the satisfaction someone would feel from actually participating in the building of their own home? Many of the supported people could actively participate in providing some of the sweat equity required to build a home, sanding, painting, staining, nail guns and hammering just to name a few job tasks that could be learned.

Habitat for Humanity Canada brings communities together to help families build strength, stability and independence through affordable homeownership. With the help of volunteers and Habitat homeowners, local Habitats in every province and territory help build and rehabilitate safe, decent and affordable homes, including single-family and multi-unit houses.

Habitat does not give away free homes. The families who partner with HFH pay an interest-free mortgage geared to their income and volunteer 500 hours with Habitat. As Habitat homeowners pay off their mortgage, the funds are invested into a revolving fund, which is used by their local Habitat to build more homes for low-income families in the community.

Habitat for Humanity (HFH) inspiring stories

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) mission is to help Canadians meet their housing needs. Here are some ways in which they can help you:

  • Purchasing – Tools and information to help you buy a house or a condominium
  • Rental Housing – Rental rules and processes for building owners, landlords and tenants
  • Developing and Renovating – Resources and funding for new builds, conversions and renovations
  • Managing and Maintaining – Tools and funding for housing management and sustainable maintenance
  • Data and Research – The latest trends, research, data and insights on housing in Canada
  • Finance and Investing – Mortgage insurance, securities, bonds and more for professionals

Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

C. Create a secondary suite

Whether you plan to create a secondary suite, legal basement apartment or a coach house, whatever type you choose, these options can provide long term sustainability while also providing an opportunity for your loved one to learn and put into practice necessary life skills which promote and build independence. These options also allow people to age in place and remain close to a community they have come to know and thrive in.

A secondary suite can help you:

  • establish a transitional independent living space,
  • create an income suite for a PSW student or similar supports,
  • plan for live in supports for the future, and
  • renovate now to provide future mobility and accessibility needs.

If you are considering moving or purchasing a home for the first time look for a home that has a finished basement, or one that has the potential to be turned into a legal apartment in the future. A basement that already has its own entrance/exit and large enough windows for fire safety will save you money in the long run. When the time comes for your son/daughter to try living more independently they can move into their own place within the home and adjust to a more independent lifestyle while still having their family in the same home for added piece of mind. If the secondary unit can accommodate two bedrooms, consider renting to a local student that is studying in the Developmental Services/Social Services, provide them with affordable housing while they offer mentorship, companionship and teach life skills to your loved one in return.

If your loved one stands to inherit your home, then the legal suite can continue to be a source of income to help pay any mortgage/upkeep or support costs. Long term live-in supports are definitely an option with more than one self-contained living unit in the home.

You may also be eligible for tax cuts and rebates if you build a legal apartment into/onto your existing home or property.

Zoning by-laws vary from town to town, so be sure to research where your area stands on the creation of secondary suites. Your local DSO housing navigator may be able to provide information specific to your area.

Need more resources on secondary suite options? Check out the following links:

Canadian Mortgage and Housing Commission (CMHC) on secondary suites and guides to creating secondary suites from various districts
Learn how a self-contained unit can help you create an adaptable home that brings ongoing benefit.

Canadian Mortgage and Housing Commission (CMHC) information on funding for secondary and garden suites
This program provides financial support to modify existing on-reserve family homes to create affordable secondary or garden suites.

Canadian Mortgage and Housing Commission (CMHC) information on home modifications for persons with disabilities
Funding to help modify on-reserve housing to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities.

Canadian Mortgage and Housing Commission (CMHC)
Home renovation financing options to consider before starting a renovation project.

Laneway Housing Guide
You can complete the form with your name and email address to have the Laneway Housing Guide emailed to you.

Ontario Building Code Information: Adding a Second Unit in an Existing House
This guide can help homeowners plan and build a second unit within their house.

Ontario Renovation Grants: 82 Government Grants, Energy Rebates & Tax Credits for Ontario Homeowners
This online resource provides information about government grants, energy rebates, and tax credits for Ontario.

Ontario Secondary Suite Research Study
This study is an in-depth look into secondary suites in the province of Ontario.

Thinking about a coach house?
A newspaper article on coach houses.

Secondary Suites – Landlord’s self-help centre
Second Units is an important tool in contributing to the supply of private sector affordable housing choices.

Secondary Suites & Granny Flats: 19 Canadian Grants + 11 Renovation Tips
This comprehensive guide covers much information about secondary suites and granny flats, as well as grants and renovation tips.


Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

D. Overview indigenous housing options

If you are indigenous, you may qualify for Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) housing and Affordable Housing through the Urban Native Housing Program, the Rural and Native Housing Program or the First Nations, Inuit, Metis Urban and Rural (FIMUR) program. In some cases, you may be asked to provide verification of status and in others you can self identify. Contact your Coordinated Access Centre to see if housing for indigenous peoples is available in your community.

Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) housing

Rent-Geared-to-Income units are rented at 25% of your gross income or the maximum shelter allowance that you are entitled through Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program. In some cases, all utilities will be included in your rent as well as basic appliances such a refrigerator and stove.

For Toronto, you can access home ownership and rental programs through MIZIWE BIIK.

For more information on programs in all other parts of Ontario, please visit Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services (OAHS).

Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP)
When major repairs are needed to bring on-reserve housing up to minimum health and safety standards, CMHC is there to help. Through their Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP) On-Reserve, they help First Nations cover the costs of major repairs to substandard homes.

Insured Loans for On-Reserve First Nation Housing
If you live on reserve and are looking to buy, build or renovate a single-family home or multi-unit rental property in your community, you may be eligible for an insured loan from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to help First Nations members to gain access to financing for housing projects.

Are you looking to buy, build or renovate a single-family home or multi-unit rental property in your community?

Insured loans from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) help First Nation members living on-reserve get access to financing for housing projects.

How does the loan program work?

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) provides loan insurance to approved lenders. This allows them to confidently offer guaranteed loans for on-reserve First Nation housing projects. An approved lender might be a bank, credit union or Aboriginal Capital Corporation.

An approved lender will work with you to prepare and submit a loan application to CMHC for approval. Your council will also help you get the necessary approvals for your project.

All loans are secured by a council resolution and a ministerial loan guarantee from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). If you cannot repay the loan, the outstanding balance will be paid to the approved lender by INAC on your behalf. However, INAC will then need repayment from your First Nations.

Who is eligible for a loan?

To be eligible for a loan, you must:

  • Have a certificate of possession or have been granted use of the land by the First Nations
  • Meet the approved lender’s minimum requirements, including being able to repay the loan

There are also additional requirements based on the type of property you’re purchasing or building. They include:

  • If you’re a homebuyer, you must have savings (or INAC contributions) equal to at least 5% of the loan’s value. This means if the cost to build your house is $90,000, you need a down payment of at least $4,500
  • When investing in a property of 4 units or less, the minimum down payment is 20% of the loan’s value. CMHC insured loans are available for qualified rental projects up to a maximum of 80% of the loan’s value
  • For rental projects of 5 or more units, the minimum down payment is 15% of the loan’s value. CMHC-insured loans are available for qualified rental projects up to a maximum of 85% of the loan’s value

For more information about this program, please contact your First Nations Housing Specialist.


Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

E. Retrofit an existing structure

Sometimes retrofitting an existing home/apartment is the best alternative to independent living. Whether converting an area of your home into an independent suite or completely remodeling a home/apartment for accessibility or sensory needs, there is a lot to consider.

Are you going to do the work yourself or hire a contractor?

If you decide that hiring a contractor is the best way to go, check out the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) guide entitled Hiring a Contractor for useful tips, interview suggestions, and recommendations around obtaining estimates.

Physical accessibility

If the environment is required to be accessible (or even if it is not at this time) consider applying universal design principles. Here is a video on universal design as well. For suggestions on bathroom modifications, check out our Bathroom modifications - Tip sheet.

Smart home design

Technology can be of great assistance with building independence. Technology is always changing and there are some very progressive technologies that are entering the market every day to assist people with physical or cognitive limitations to live as independently as possible. Building or retrofitting your home is the perfect time to consider ‘roughing in’ current or future potential technology needs. You can reference our Creating a smart home - Tip sheet supporting document to know what you need to create a smart home environment.

Sensory aware environment

For many people with autism or global development disabilities, sensory considerations must be addressed. When you are designing or retrofitting a home, there are several things to consider. Reference our Creating a sensory friendly home - Tip sheet supporting document to figure out what you need to have a friendly and peaceful sensory environment in your home.

Financial assistance

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)
CMHC has information about a number of financing options and practical advice to consider before starting a renovation project.

March of Dimes Home and Vehicle Modification Program
Provides funding for basic home and/or vehicle modifications.

March of Dimes Assistive Devices Program
Provides low income people with assistance to purchase, repair or maintain a wide variety of mobility or assistive equipment.

Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)
RDSP is a plan that allows you to save for the future. If you already have an RDSP, you can withdraw money from this plan to help pay for necessary renovations.

Ontario Assistive Devices Program (ADP)
ADP will pay for 75% of the price of an approved item. If you are an ODSP recipient, you may qualify for even more.

Show Me The Green
In some areas there may be forgivable loans and/or grants available to homeowners and landlords for major repairs, to add habitable living space to remediate overcrowding, for accessibility modifications, to create secondary/garden suites or repair and rehabilitate shelter units that assist victims of family violence. Show Me the Green provides information and links to regionally specific opportunities. You can also contact your local DSO housing navigator for more information.


Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

F. Understand your options if there is no housing in your area

Introduction

It could be that in some areas there is no housing available which will make it difficult to create a plan for independent living. Other families have been faced with a similar situation and have worked to create the type of housing that they need. This section will provide you with a few examples of partnerships and options that could be available to you.

Create partnerships with developers or non-profit housing corporations

Many successful housing projects have been created as a result of families partnering with non-profit housing corporations or developers to provide the housing that they need. The following are a couple of partnerships in other areas:

Partners share vision for affordable homes

This partnership between All Together Affordable Housing and Springdale Developments in Belleville has created many affordable units some of which are designated for persons with a developmental disability.

The following collaborative funded by the Developmental Services Housing Task Force Initiative was made possible with input from proactive families.
http://www.planningnetwork.ca/HTF2/viewer/desktop/#page/14

Create a secondary suite in your home

And encourage other families to do the same! This unit could be for your family member or another person with a developmental disability, or a person who provides support to your family. Some areas have funding or incentives to assist with the cost.

Consider co-housing

These following examples of co-housing for seniors can be adopted and adapted for people with developmental disabilities:

Apply for a housing allowance

Many municipalities offer housing allowances which are portable and stay with the person and will help to bridge the gap between the market rent of a unit and the rent that you can afford to pay. In many cases the amount is set and may not completely cover the difference but it will reduce the amount you will have to contribute for safe, affordable housing.

Join a family group

See if there is a family group in your area that is already working on partnerships and development of affordable housing. If you don’t know of any groups you can go to the Partners For Planning website for a list, or check with a local agency.

Apply to Habitat For Humanity (HFH)

Habitat For Humanity creates affordable homeownership for families with low to moderate incomes by providing zero interest loans and Geared-to-Income mortgage payments. Contact your local affiliate to see if there is a potential for partnership.

You can use the following HFH examples from the Developmental Services Housing Task Force to help guide your discussions:

Step 3: Financing the plan

Every successful housing model has a solid financial foundation. It all begins with a budget which is essentially a summary of your expected income and expenses for a defined period of time (usually one month). To create a sustainable and realistic housing plan, you need to understand the amount of money that is available to you compared to how much you will need each month for both living expenses and supports.

In this section of the housing toolkit, you will find resources that will help you build a budget, as well as understand your funding and financial options.

This section will help you find the information and resources to:

  1. create a budget, and
  2. understand your funding options.

Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

A. Create a budget

Here are several types of budgets that you may want to consider for your housing plan:

Household and support budget

Your household budget includes things like rent, food, utilities, clothing, entertainment (all of those things that need to be covered by income sources like ODSP and employment).

Your support budget includes your cost of supports, whether technology or person driven. The support budget can only be created when you know what you will be doing throughout the day and what supports you require to be successful. This is why it is important to ensure your housing vision is clear.

By completing the My budget plan document, you will be able to develop your budget.

Shared budget

There may be an opportunity to share supports with your housemate or neighbour. The most common times to share support when living in the same space or the same building/geographic location are overnight support, morning routine, and evening mealtime support, as this is when people are most often spending time in their home.

It is important to remember that people change with time and this may be reflected in their living environments. Any housing plan that is developed should be able to change with the person. Most people have several living situations throughout their adult life. Therefore, whatever is created needs to be flexible and any shared financial resources should be individually tracked in the event future separation is required.


Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

B. Understand your funding options

Funding and financial resources for the supports you need may come from several different sources, and although you may work and/or receive benefits from ODSP, your income and/or basic allowance may not cover the amount you require for all your support needs.

Your housing plan will require a team of people, from natural supports to formal supports. Finding these people in your community is an important step towards the development, implementation and sustainability of your housing plan. As your needs change, it will be helpful to consider if there are people and/or services that you have not yet connected with, that may be able to address your needs. Your local DSO housing navigator may be able to assist you with this.

Step 4: Managing housing supports

In this section of the toolkit, you will find the resources to help you recruit, hire and manage the supports that you need to help realize your unique housing model. You will find guides, websites and documents to help you consider things such as how to find supports, use contracts, know the labour laws, and seek legal advice to name a few. This information will hopefully give you the confidence to hire and manage your own support worker (s) if you choose to do so.

This section will help you find the information and resources to:

  1. recruit, hire and manage your supports

Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

a. Recruit, hire and manage your supports

When thinking of an Individualized Residential Model, employing and retaining support staff is an area that takes a lot of time and energy. If you have never hired or managed people before then the idea of hiring your own support for your loved one may be rather daunting, but it need not be so. You may say that you don’t know the first thing about managing employees, but if you look more closely, you’ll find that you are likely managing and overseeing many people in your life on a regular basis.

Running a busy household takes many skills such as negotiation, mediation, effective communication and time management, not to mention, intuitiveness and good judgement when it comes to knowing what’s best for your family. You likely didn’t just pick your loved one’s school, day programs, dentist or doctor without doing some preliminary research. The same goes when you are buying a home, you don’t randomly choose the people who will be helping you make major life decisions. It’s no different when choosing the right support for your loved one. Just because it’s not in the guise of a business or agency, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have what it takes to recruit, hire and manage support staff to help with your own unique supported housing model.

When you first start to think about hiring, remember the key to choosing well is compatibility, much in the same way that one chooses a life partner or a roommate. Depending on how much support you require you are essentially inviting someone into your life, home, and into your loved one’s living space, so you will want to make sure that they are a good fit for all. Starting with people in your family member’s social circle, people they already have a positive connection with and people who have a background in support/social work would be logical to approach first. Don’t be afraid to get creative when looking for paid/unpaid supports, you could look towards younger active seniors in your community, college students and newcomers that may be looking for both affordable housing and employment, or for experience if unpaid in exchange for free or reduced rent.

You may decide to place an ad in Kijiji or other job search sites, use word of mouth, find a family support group to share a wanted ad with or through a professional agency. Be sure to involve your loved one who will be receiving the supports as much as possible during the hiring process.

Depending on the level of support required you may want to consider a blend of natural supports and formal supports. Staff can be independent providers, employees or agency staff (i.e. Community Living). Each of these options has different responsibilities, liabilities and risks. You’ll probably want to become aware of employment legislation, so look for more information online at Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act.

Once you have chosen your support staff be sure to use a contract for all staff that you employ, whether paid or unpaid, this will help you to maintain professionalism, accountability, and legal safeguards. You can find some examples of contracts and hiring tips at respiteservices.com. WSIB Ontario may also provide helpful information on the subject.

Step 5: Building a plan that will support change 

Implementing an Individualized Housing Plan will involve creating goals and ensuring that your plan is sustainable over the long-term. 

This section will help you find the information and resources to:

  1. implement your plan using SMART goals
  2. sustain your housing plan

Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

a. Implement your Plan using SMART goals 

It’s important to remember that people, their skills, interests and support needs, are likely to change over time. Setting SMART goals is an important part of implementing a housing plan with flexibility, so that it can change and grow with you. You will want to review both your SMART goals and your My Home evaluation on a regular basis to assess what’s working and what might need to be changed. For example, you may initially decide to live alone and then realize that you would feel more comfortable with a roommate or companion to share your home with. The types of support you require and how you wish to receive these supports may change, etc. It’s important that you remain at the center of your plan, and that those involved in maintaining the plan, never lose sight of this objective.

Sometimes people struggle with setting goals and tracking success. You may wish to consider using the services of a person-centered planner to assist you. Whether using a planner or doing it alone, here are some tips on how to create SMART goals.  

How do we develop goals? 

Most people develop both short-term goals (achievable within one year) and long-term goals (achievable within 5 years). The short-term goals are the smaller steps you take towards long-term goals. Goals should always be written in a very Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Realistic and Timely way (SMART). This ensures objectivity to measure the success. 

How do we track our achievement? 

A team can track their achievements at every meeting by reviewing the goals and their progress. 

Do goals change? 

Yes. Goals can change at any time. If a person’s interests change, their goals will change. It is quite common for goals to change and it is a good thing. This means the person is finding their voice and able to express changes or their team is able to interpret the person’s non-verbal cues in expressing their likes and places. 

What are SMART goals? 

In order for a goal to be objective (quantifiable and measurable), rather than subjective (based on emotions and opinions), a goal must be written using certain guidelines. This ensures a clear interpretation of the goal.  

The SMART acronym provides the guidelines to writing an objective and measurable goal.  

S stands for specific: Simply written and clearly defines where you want to go. 

stands for measurable: Include precise amounts, dates, timeframes, and so on so you can measure your success. 

stands for attainable or achievable: You may need to develop new skills, but with time you believe it is possible. 

stands for relevant: This means it matters to the person and is a part of their Vision

stands for time-bound: Set deadlines for your goals. 

The following checklist is meant to assist you in ensuring that the goal you have created is a SMART goal. You should be able to answer each of the questions below with a YES. If you cannot, you need to work on your goal to transform it into a SMART goal.

  • Does everyone understands my goal?
  • Is it clear how I will track my success?
  • Is my goal realistic?  
  • Is my goal person-centered?  
  • Is achieving this goal in my best interests?  
  • Is my goal achievable within the time frame set out in the plan?  

Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

b. Sustaining your housing plan

Sustainability refers to the ability to keep your Individualized Residential Model and appropriate supports going, long after the initial time, energy and resources have been contributed. For example, if you have decided to purchase a home you will need to ensure the required funds will be available for ongoing maintenance, or if you have decided to rent then you will need to think about what happens if the apartment or location is no longer suitable.

As you assess your housing plan you should consider the following: 

Income – will your housing plan still work if there is a change to income? For example, when an ODSP recipient turns 65 and is eligible for old age pension. Or, if you are employed and your hours are reduced, or employment ceases.

Ability to live independently – what happens if physical needs change so much that modifications to the home are required, or perhaps even a move to another home?

Financial ability to make repairs – how will funds be set aside if the home is owned and major repairs are required? Or, you live in a condominium and receive a special assessment

The following factors contribute to sustainability:

  • availability of human resources (staff and staff coordination),
  • reliable housing,
  • access to funding and cash flow,
  • formalized team, and
  • established processes for evaluating and modifying the housing plan as necessary.

Here are some tips and ideas to support the development of a sustainable housing model:

  • Identify a person or persons who can commit to on-going staff recruitment as necessary (training, scheduling, supervision and retention).
  • Access staffing support through Developmental Services agencies (where available), or a staffing agency. Your local DSO housing navigator may be able suggest resources.
  • Familiarize yourself with the difference between an employee and an independent contractor, as there can be cost benefits associated with hiring workers privately versus through an agency.
  • Collaborate with others who have a housing plan, look for opportunities to share skills (e.g. if one person has strong financial skills and another has people management skills), sharing staffing supports and the task of managing supports can be an option worth exploring.
  • Review live-in models that can provide increased  consistency, as onsite staff provide “natural” back up support and can assist with coordination.
  • Look into creating private  FriendlyNeighbour, Co-housing and/or Host Family models.
  • Consider housing solutions that can provide the ability to share staff teams (e.g. duplex, secondary suites, townhouses and apartment complexes).
  • Plan for changes that are likely to occur with formal supports and natural supports. Availability and capabilities can change, members of the support network or Microboard can step-down, staff can move on to other jobs. It is important to ensure that a succession plan is formalized and reviewed on a regular basis.
  • Consider forming a  Microboard as it  can take on the task of managing staffing supports.

Housing

Here are some important housing tips:

  • When you purchase a property, it’s important to ensure that you put some money away for regular maintenance and upkeep (e.g. repairs, new roof, furnace, etc.).
  • When you rent, it’s always good to put some money aside for contingencies (e.g. costs associated with repairs that are not the responsibility of the landlord to cover, rent increases, tenant insurance, etc.).
  • Families with available cash flow can share the purchase of homes with other families.
  • A family or families can purchase property when their children are younger. They can intentionally rent the home to adults within the sector to support the carrying costs of the home. This “pay forward” model of housing investment supports increased stable housing for the whole community. When plans such as this are put into place early on, there can be opportunity to build equity in a property (e.g. paying down the mortgage with the rent that is collected), which may help reduce costs and strengthen the sustainability of your housing plan in the future.   
  • Estate Planning and housing trusts, including Henson Trusts, are essential to support housing plans. A financial planner and lawyer can assist you with looking at these areas.
  • Hiring a trustee service or estate administration service might be beneficial, when considering long-term access to housing and associated costs.

Partners for Planning includes a directory of professionals (e.g. legal and financial providers) that may be useful and many other helpful resources and webcasts.

Government grants and funding

Access to government grants and funding sources should be maximized over and above the Developmental Services Ontario options. This may include:

Funding programs and opportunities can change, so be sure to check these sites often to see if you can benefit from new initiatives.

Formalized team, entities for personal empowerment 

Over the last several years, many families have incorporated their teams by developing either AROHAs or Microboards. Both of these words describe entities which can provide you support and oversight, while empowering you to live the life you want, with the supports you require from your team.

Here are some of the reasons you might decide to develop an incorporated entity: 

  • provide continued support for the person with decision-making,
  • be the employer of record,
  • administer the individualized funding (if any, including Passport funding), and
  • maintain relationships with the team by formalizing the roles. 

As an incorporated entity, the team will need to:

  • purchase annual insurance,
  • complete an annual audit,
  • submit their annual taxes, and
  • hold an annual general meeting.

Microboards

Microboards Ontario, a non-profit organization, was founded by a group of grassroots community leaders and disability activists in the summer of 2018 to promote the development of self-directed support organizations (also known as Microboards) in the province. For an introduction to Microboards and their purpose within the context of developing creative housing models, check out this video.

Step 6: Learning from others

DSO housing navigators are continuously researching housing and support resources to best guide people and their families in the creation and development of person-centered housing and housing support plans. In their research, many fantastic resources related to housing and housing development for those with a developmental disability were discovered. This section of the toolkit includes guides and toolkits, as well as success stories, that have been collected by the DSO housing navigator team from across the province, country and even world.

This section will help you to:

  1. explore resources, and
  2. learn from success stories.

Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

a. Explore resources

A Guide to Finding Housing in Hamilton
This guide includes resources, information and tools which can make finding housing easier. Several ideas in this guide are applicable throughout Ontario.

ConnectAbility
This website shares numerous resources regarding housing along with success stories of those who have paved the way.

Creating a Good Life in Community: A Guide on Person-Directed Planning
This guide has been written to assist families and people with developmental disabilities to plan for their future. It provides some steps in which to approach person-directed planning.

Creating Housing Choices: For People with Developmental Disabilities in Ontario
This guide was held to showcase and generate alternative housing options for people with developmental disabilities within the Greater Toronto Area.

Housing Transition Guide: Moving to a Place of My Own!
This guide is intended for the loved ones and caregivers of people who would like to plan for a transition toward a new, person centered living environment.

Investing in a Home of My Own (WindsorEssex Family Network)
This document will guide you through some home ownership options.

My Choice, My Home (Windsor-Essex Family Network)
This website provides various articles and resources on housing.

My Home, Focus on the Future Series (WindsorEssex Family Network)
This document will help you consider the pros and cons regarding different housing models.

Options for Thinking about My Home (Windsor-Essex Family Network)
This document will help you figure out what type of home you would like to live in.

Renovation Tips Created for Families by Families (Windsor-Essex Family Network)
This document provides great tips if you are considering a renovation to create a private living space for a family member in your home.

Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

b. Learn from success stories

There are plenty of creative and resilient people who along with their loved ones have created innovative and person-centered solutions to their housing and housing support needs.

Here are some links where you can find such inspiring stories:

Developmental Services Housing Task Force 18 Demonstration Projects
This e-booklet provides an overview of 18 innovative housing projects for adults with developmental disabilities.

Elmira District Community Videos
Field of Dreams and Snowgoose videos are about an intentional community that gives adults with intellectual disabilities the chance to live independently with supports provided by a good neighbour model.

Elmira’s Good Neighbours Approach to Intentional Communities
This report explains the “Good Neighbours” housing concept as conceived by Elmira Developmental Support Corporation.

Families Matter Co-op Videos
This Families Matter Co-op video channel provides several video vignettes highlighting innovative housing solutions.

Leah’s Apartment
This series of videos demonstrates the use of technology to increase independence with activities of daily living.

LIGHTS
This website shares some great inspirational stories on how people achieved a home of their own.

Live Work Play Video
Live Work Play has used the “Just Enough Support” model to assist people to achieve full community inclusion, including their home living environment.

Living the Smart Life
This video demonstrates how technology can make a difference in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Partners for Planning
This website provides video clips of some amazing success stories related to housing.

Shared Dreams for Independent Living Video
This video is about a group of 5 families who got together in 2013 to assist their sons to live in their own home, supported in the way they wish, and maintaining strong connection with their families. In 2015 they became an incorporated non-profit.

The Community Oak Park
This website provides an inspiring success story about how a group of families are giving people with a developmental disability a voice.

York Region Why Wait Demonstration Project Videos
This video channel provides a series of videos highlighting different methods of support within individualized residential models.

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