Asset Ownership Workshop - NAMI 2007 Convention

  • Hello!  I’m back from San Diego and would like to post an entry about a workshop I attended while there: “Asset Ownership for People with Disabilities.”  The statistics are sobering yet changeable, because options exist for people with schizophrenia to save money and build wealth.  Here, I’ll talk about the reality and give solutions.


    Fifty-four percent of people with disabilities live in households with incomes below $15,000.  Fifty-eight percent are asset poor and only 10 percent own a home.  Luckily, asset ownership is possible via savings vehicles such as Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) and home buying resources such as community land trusts (CLTs).  For others, co-operative or traditional housing could be available with loans geared towards people with psychiatric disabilities, such as New York State’s Office of Mental Health (OMH) Home of Your Own (HOYO) program that gives people with a psychiatric disability who are working a 4% mortgage rate.

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    Financial assets—such as cash savings, stocks, bonds, home, business and real estate equity build individual’s and families’ long-term security, thus enabling them to weather crises, and make key investments in education, home, car or assistive technology, or plan for retirement, among other goals.  More than this, owning assets matters because it allows people with disabilities to feel optimistic and included in society.


    I’ll focus here on IDAs and CLTs specifically, and touch on co-operative housing and other resources.  An Individual Development Account, or IDA, allows people with low incomes to set up a special savings account where their money is matched with donations.  For every dollar you save in an IDA, you can receive another dollar or more.  To open this type of account, you’ll need to attend financial education classes.  Match dollars come from many different places, such as government agencies, private companies, churches or local charities


    More than 250 IDA programs exist in the United States, and their terms and conditions vary.  Most specify a maximum household income level, most often a percentage of the federal poverty guidelines (usually between 100% and 200%) or the area median income (usually between 65% and 85%).  Most programs offer a 2:1 match rate, so for each $1 you deposit in your IDA, $2 in matching funds will be added to your savings.  For each dollar you save, match rates can be more or less than $2.  Account holders use their savings to buy a home, pay for education or training, or start a small business.  Some IDA programs allow other uses, such as home repairs or computer or automobile purchases.


    For detailed information, log on to and click on the Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) link in the center of the page.  Next you can click on the FAQ link, or search the IDA directory for programs in your state.


    According to the Institute for Community Economics Web site, a community land trust “Is a private non-profit corporation created to acquire and hold land for the benefit of a community and provide secure affordable access to land and housing for community residents.”  Two benefits of CLTs are that they help communities provide affordable housing for lower income residents in the community, and promote resident ownership and control of housing.


    You can log on to to find information about buying into a land trust and read about success stories of families who bought property via a CLT.  Specifically, a directory of land trusts or their sponsors is available at  Another useful site is NeighborWorks, at  This agency, formed by congress, creates opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives and strengthen their communities.  The Equity Trust, Inc. also has a Web site, that offers technical and financial assistance to communities to gain ownership interests in their food, land and housing.   A link for borrowers and a list of Equity Trust resources is included.

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    Lastly, buying into a housing co-op has long been a coveted way to own an asset for people whose income level prohibits ownership in a community land trust or funding with an Individual Development Account.  That said, the National Association of Housing Cooperatives’ Web site offers a video on “making quality homeownership affordable and creating wealth for low income families,” focusing on the Santa Rosa Creek Commons, in one of California’s—and the nations’—least affordable communities.


    Log on to and find information bout the ins and outs of buying a co-op.  There’s a distinction: a housing co-op is unlike other forms of homeownership in that you don’t directly own real estate, you are buying shares or a membership in a cooperative housing corporation.  The corporation owns or leases all real estate.  This requires a different type of loan, and often a rigorous application process where you have to document your finances.


    My goal is to own a one-bedroom co-op on or about January 2009.  I give myself one year to save $15K for the down payment, and I’m looking to other funding sources, such as the book advance given for my memoir, matching gifts from my mother and father, and a couple thou from my Roth IRA if necessary.  My union provides free legal services so that I can get an attorney to help with the closing.


    In September, I will write a blog entry about this driving desire of mine to own an apartment, focusing on the goal-setting methods that have guaranteed I succeed at obtaining the things that really mattered in my recovery.  I’ll also excerpt content from my second book, a self-help guide exclusively for people living with schizophrenia.  In there, I document my sure-fire method of getting what you want out of life.


    In all I do, I want to give you a different, more hopeful way of looking at the illness, so that you can see the possibilities and then decide for yourself how you want to live.  To inspire you to feel empowered is my greatest hope.


    Meet me in the next blog entry when I talk about the NAMI Connection peer support group model.  I’m going out of order, and will write about “aging and schizophrenia through the lifespan” after that, because I want the time to reflect on the pros and cons of this 2007 convention workshop, and offer in more detail my slant on the topic.  Also, I feel strongly that peer support is one of the prime factors in a successful recovery.


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    So join me here on Thursday.



Published On: July 03, 2007