Patricia Manko

Recent Posts

Diary of a Dream III

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, Jun 27, 2013 @ 01:34 PM

Our Section 8 Housing Choice

describe the imageWe completed a Section 8 application* on the day James turned 18.  Although at the time we did not know what James' residential plan would be, we were not concerned for the voucher can take years to obtain.  This was a critical step towards our dream- for James to live “on his own”. 

Last August we received a notice in the mail from the housing authority informing us that James had come to the top of the list for a Section 8 voucher.  We were asked to provide documented proof of James’ income (bank statement, SSI, employment), citizenship, a doctor's note and social security identification.  After all the paperwork was found to be in order, we were given an appointment to learn how to begin the Section 8 process. 

In our case, although we were excited to get the voucher after only three and a half years, a lot shorter than the ten years we had anticipated, we were not ready.  We had purchased the property and had been working on our vision for James’ future, but half of the space that he was going to living in was essentially a shell; no walls or electricity!  We were encouraged by several people to not turn the Section 8 down since we would go to the bottom of the list.  So a Plan B had to be developed.

In Law apartmentPlan B: An In-Law apartment

We researched the possibility of creating an in-law apartment in our home.  From a technical perspective, every city or town has different definitions and rules for in-law apartments. Our town(Melrose, MA) is specific about use for family members only and has a three year time frame before needing to be renewed as an in- law.  From a Section 8 perspective, the key is to make sure that the city or town classifies the in-law as LEGAL.  Additionally, since we are relatives of James, we required an accomodation with Section 8 to be his landlord.

While our first thought had always been to have James live in his own home, the idea and reality of helping him to acquire more independence while living in a separate space with us was perfect. Meeting the definition of a rental was only step one in realizing this new plan. The second step was to get the public approvals necessary  to build the in-law and this was a time consuming process. We met with the town planning board, and the board of appeals, and navigated the permit and inspection process.  To gain approval, we were required to draw up schematics of the each floor of the house. We worked with our plumber and builder to prepare the technical building requirements and got feedback from the building inspector in terms of code requirements. 

Typically the  housing agency prefers that a Section 8 recipient use their voucher within sixty days of receiving it. This time frame did not work for our unique situation. Our local housing authority did not seem to have experience working with individuals with intellectual disabilities; they typically linked these individuals up with non-profit agencies on group vouchers.  We connected with a member of the local housing board and after explaining our goal in a housing agencies public meeting, the concept was embraced.  We wrote weekly updates on our progress to the Section 8 voucher coordinator and kept her in the loop as the the housing authority accommodated our extension. 

The photo above is James' bedroom in the in-law- click here to see more photos of his new digs! This was the beauty of working with the local housing authority : we all learned something and got the result that was best for James.

There are many applications of using a section 8 voucher-this is clearly not a one size fits all situation.

Here are some options:

1.       The family can purchase and own a building and rent to their child who has a section 8 voucher. (an exception is required where the owner is a family member, but exceptions are very common if the individual has a disability.)

2.       A Special Needs Trust can own a building and rent to a child who has a section 8 voucher.

3.       A family may purchase a condo in a building and use the section 8 voucher to collect rent.

4.       You may apply for a 2 Bedroom voucher if you can show that 24/7 supports are needed.


An investment by parents in a residence in which their child will live is a factor in their own personal tax, retirement and estate planning. The key is to determine the best situation for you and your family. If you have questions regarding your own individual situation, please give us a call.

Contact us

*A MUST DO: Apply for The Section 8 Housing CHOICE Voucher

An important step every family should take in planning for the future is to apply for a Section 8 housing choice voucher when their child turns 18. While the application is easy to complete, the actual time frame to get a section 8 voucher can be years.

A section 8 voucher allows people to choose their own housing anywhere they want to live. If the Section 8 recipient moves, the Section 8 rental assistance goes with them.  The individual vouchers are not limited to particular housing developments like project-based vouchers. Families with Section 8 tenant-based vouchers can choose any apartment they want, as long as the rent is reasonable and the unit passes a physical inspection.  The application process is simple,  the application form is generally one page. A great resource for information about the Section 8 application process is .

This commentary is provided as general information and not intended to provide specific advice.

Tags: Housing, transition planning, Special Needs Financial Planning, Special Needs Trusts

We are the Money Magazine Family

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, May 02, 2013 @ 04:49 PM

Money MagazineJohn Nadworny's Financial Plan

 for a Family with Special Needs

Featured in Money Magazine

Over the many years, in our presentations about financial planning for families of people with special needs, we always referred to ourselves as NOT the typical  Money magazine family. Times have changed.

Last fall, John received a telephone call from Jeff Howe, who was writing an article about financial concerns of families with a child with special needs.  Jeff’s interest extended beyond the story he had been hired to report- his 5 year old son Finn is diagnosed with autism and other significant medical conditions.  Like many others in his situation, Jeff and his wife Alysia were distressed and completely overwhelmed with trying to figure out what it would cost to raise their son and take care of the rest of the family. 

 According to the US Census bureau, nearly 1 in 5 people in the US have a disability, with half of them reporting the disability to be severe. ¹ About 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder.²   Given the vast number of families dealing with providing and planning for their loved one with a disability, there are a number of financial planners claiming expertise in special needs. Jeff interviewed and moved beyond several of them before finding John through an online search. Finally, he had called the right person.

 John Nadworny was familiar with scary math: his youngest child James was turning 22, the age at which school districts relinquish responsibility for a special needs child.  James has Down syndrome and John and his family planned and prepared for years to provide James with the means to have an independent and full life. To read about the Nadwornys’ experience planning for their son’s transition to independent living, click here: Diary of a Dream.

John applied his 20 years of experience in financial planning and knowledge of the costs  of a child with a disability and walked the Howe family through a process to help them reach their goals. The result is Paying for Finn: a special needs child, Money, May 2013.

Click the link below to read the full story.

 ¹Americans with disabilities 2010

² CDC Autism and Developmental Disabilities


Tags: Special Needs Financial Planning, autism

Follow Me

Subscribe to Diary of a Dream

Your Comments