ENJOYING MY HOME: Supported Housing Options for Autism and Intellectual Disability in Canada

AIDE Canada
Housing is important as it is where we live much of our daily life. It should be a place of enjoyment, community and safety. This Toolkit offers an overview of supported housing options for autistic individuals and/or individuals with intellectual disability, along with examples of resources in selected Canadian cities. Five 'styles' or approaches of supported housing are described, along with a rating of estimated levels of support provided, cost and availability of each approach (although this will vary based on community and time). The styles of housing described comprise: (1) Community Living with Wrap-Around Supports, (2) Semi-Independent Living with 'Light' Supports, (3) Supportive Roommates, (4) Home Sharing, and (5) Community Care (Group Home/Home Collectivity). Ideas for moving forward are also offered.

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash



Styles of Housing
Steps for Moving Forward
A Few Final Thoughts… with John Seigner
Appendix A: Some Housing Resources in Selected Canadian Cities
Appendix B: Supported Housing Infographic



Housing is important – our home is where we live much of our daily life. It should be a place of community, safety and enjoyment. Determining the ideal type of housing and ensuring a deep sense of community can be challenging, especially as autistic youth and individuals with intellectual disability move into and through adulthood. It is critically important that housing options are available and offer the support that is needed by an individual and is affordable and sustainable.

For far too many individuals, this basic hope and right seems beyond easy reach. Currently, there are extensive waitlists for subsidized housing in many communities, along with supported housing shortages; hence, this issue of supported housing has become an urgent issue and need in Canada.

In this Toolkit, some common styles of supported housing for autistic individuals and/or individuals with intellectual disabilities are described, along with resources in selected Canadian communities.  Ideas for moving forward are offered.


1. Considering Your Housing Needs 


Safe, stable and comfortable housing is exceptionally important in our lives. How conducive is your home to your needs now and into the future?  Does your housing situation fit with what you need and value; that is, where you want to live and with the supports that allow you to pursue the choices that are important to you and bring you joy and comfort?

If it is true that home is one’s ‘sanctuary’, planning is needed for housing to allow for choice, self-determination, and quality of life. One’s home should be an environment which brings contentment and be conducive to sensory needs. A key part of a strong housing plan is safety both in one’s home and also in one’s neighborhood. Access to services and amenities that allow one to remain as independent as possible, safe, and connected in the community, are critical criteria for a suitable housing solution. One’s home needs to offer support that matches their support needs and preferences. This entails:

  1. Relational engagement – within the home, and in the community
  2. Thriving and enjoyment in daily routines and activities (e.g., work, transportation, recreation, friendship, etc.).

Crucial to suitable and sustainable housing is affordability. The long-term financial viability of various supported housing alternatives must be considered in weighing options.

Working through various considerations – preferences, support needs, community access, cost – the role of a housing “broker/advocate” and “supporter” is crucial in achieving housing solutions both now and in the future.


2. The Importance of a Broker/Advocate and Supporter

Many adults in the autistic or intellectual disability community will need a housing broker/advocate person to assist them in their housing needs. This individual or group of individuals can seek to ensure that needs and priorities of the individual are met within their housing plan and ultimately, their home.

Supportive roles that could be fulfilled include determining, with the individual, their hopes and dreams in housing, the types/extent of support needed, relevant and preferred housing styles, and a business plan to cover costs, i.e., affordability. The housing broker/advocate has an important role in supporting the individual as they determine what is available in their jurisdiction and if not available, what could be advocated for and to whom. 

In some cases, individuals or families may have moved, or would consider moving, to another city or town to access preferred housing supports. In such instances, careful investigation is recommended before making a cross-region move.  Some questions to ask may be:

  • What are the resources available in the incoming community compared to those in your current community?
  • How difficult would it be to access those services? Talking to other families in similar circumstances may be helpful as what is publicly conveyed may be different than what truly happens ‘on the ground’.
  • What are the natural or informal supports that might be lost or gained when leaving one’s current community and moving to the new community?
  • What would it be like for the young adult to relocate to another jurisdiction? If that was to happen, what would make that transition easier for them?


3. Key considerations

In weighing supported housing styles and their fit for you/your family member, multiple issues must be considered: availability, level of support needed, access to amenities, capital and monthly housing costs, and cost for support services. Thinking carefully about what is important to you/your family member, seems crucial in weighing long-term housing solutions. Here are a few key considerations.


  1. Cost: The cost of housing ranges significantly by city/region and type of housing arrangement.Capital and monthly housing costs, along with expenses for needed support, invites inquiry. What is available in your situation from public and/or private funding resources?Low-Income housing costs generally mean no more than 30% of one’s income, and affordable housing generally is viewed to be 10 to 20% below market rent which, in expensive housing markets, can still be very costly. Another consideration, related to housing type and cost, entails the option of an owned or rented unit.
    1. Owned Unit: House or condo ownership may be an option for a housing arrangement with supportive others, including roommate(s), or for semi-independent living with occasional support. This option may be more appropriate for individuals with lower support needs and sufficient personal or family financial resources to cover the purchase and maintenance costs of a property. Like condos, co-op housing can provide involvement through an association as well as group support.  

      A not-for-profit society or ‘network of support’ may be a helpful resource for administering an owned property. Such an approach may be helpful for individuals or small groups of individuals living in a home/condo. This option also has been used by families or communities in providing housing for individuals with high support needs, and serves in managing the cost of home purchase and upkeep as well as ongoing support.


      A caution in considering home ownership by an individual with autism or intellectual disability is to ensure that one’s growing equity in their owned home, i.e., a capital asset, or home ownership itself, does not impede current or future eligibility for benefits that could ensure financial viability such as monthly support and/or health/medication coverage. Remember that housing is only part of the overall package of planning for a ‘good life’. Individuals and families are advised to carefully examine regulations governing home ownership and as relevant, consider issues of guardianship and trusteeship relative to ownership. Legal advice with an individual who has expertise in housing and disability in your jurisdiction, is strongly advised.

    3. Rented/Leased Unit: Renting/leasing are viable housing options. Unlike purchasing property, minimal financial outlay generally is needed to rent a unit (beyond security/damage deposit and rent), however, there is less security in this housing arrangement, as rented property generally can be sold or tenancies can be ended by a landlord. A life lease agreement provides the exclusive right to occupy housing for one’s lifetime or a defined period of time. This tool thus might be particularly useful for those with lower resource needs and either low or high support needs.

      Most municipalities provide some form of low-income housing options which perhaps can be combined with agency support, as needed. Such an arrangement may be useful for individuals with minimal support needs, but also could offer options for those with greater support needs who could integrate additional home-based community supports.


  2. Availability: There is diversity in the ‘style’ or type of housing, and what is available in a given region and at a given time, although generally there is insufficient supported housing supply in Canada. This may be even more challenging for those with moderate support needs and in communities with high housing costs. Of further challenge, affordable supportive housing may be less available when individuals do not meet eligibility criteria for adult-based government support. Determining what you are eligible for in your province/territory and municipality is important. Individuals and families are strongly encouraged to put their name on wait lists for desired housing resources as early as possible.

  4. Level of Support Needed: There is a wide range of levels of support in daily living, that may be needed. Supports can include daily or just periodic monitoring, assistance when needs arise, potential referral to other supports, assistance with financial planning, support with medical and nutritional needs, social and recreational activities, vocational involvement, and/or personal care, ranging from minimal to continual (24/7) support. Carefully considering the nature and extent of support that is needed is crucial, and likely will guide the selection of housing options.
  5. Keep in mind that the level of support needed by an individual now or in the near future, may change across the lifespan or relative to episodic issues or challenges along the way. Flexibility in considering an individual’s needs allows for fluidity if shifts emerge.

    Note: Individuals with substantial support needs (e.g., complex medical or mental health needs) may require residential care in the form of assisted living or skilled nursing settings. Such settings are beyond the scope of this toolkit. If this level of support is needed, please consult your family doctor or a community professional (e.g., social worker) to help you access services.

  6. Access to Amenities:  A supportive community is important to all, including those with autism and/or intellectual disabilities. It is important to intentionally make housing plans, relative to what the individual values and needs. Based on what is enjoyed and valued, specific housing options and neighborhoods can be sought – particularly those with conducive resources and amenities. Examples could include: community groups, libraries, shopping venues, public transportation access, employment/vocation, recreational and community facilities, faith community, location of informal meaningful relationships/family, and whatever or whoever else is valued by the individual. Ensuring that a community allows for safety in their coming and going, is particularly important. For some with moderate to higher care needs, basic questions include: does the housing solution offer basic needs such as meals, housekeeping, and laundry services? The answer to these types of questions may have a bearing on both the level of support and the style of housing determined to be viable.



Back to Top


Styles of Housing

Considering items addressed above, we now turn to five of the many styles of supported housing in Canada and elsewhere. The supported housing styles we are addressing below are:

  1. Community Living with Wrap-Around Supports
  2. Semi-independent Living – Light Supports
  3. Supportive Roommates
  4. Home Sharing
  5. Community Care (Group Home/Home Collectivity)

These supported housing options generally range from less to more intensive supports offered. Each style is briefly described, along with an estimated cost comparison and the availability of each option. While we estimate cost, support and availability, it is important to note that there are many factors and substantial variation within these and other styles of housing.

Embedded in selected housing styles, video segments offer examples of individuals who have utilized that housing resource. We further offer selected examples of housing resources from within selected cities. In these and other communities, we suggest contacting housing and autism or intellectual disability advocacy organizations to determine more detail about these and other options.

Appendix A offers some housing resources in selected Canadian cities. Appendix B is an infographic which briefly summarizes housing cost, support offered, and availability for each of the following supported housing style.


1. Community Living with Wrap around Supports 


  • Cost: 4/5 (fairly high)
  • Extent of support: 1/5 (limited)
  • Availability: 2/5 (available only in some jurisdictions, with limited access)

Similar to what has more commonly been viewed as seniors-style housing, this model offers individual or shared units in a purpose-built property, with communal or ‘wrap around’ support on-site. This style of housing suits those who are relatively independent, but would benefit from nearby support. It could be integrated with a seniors or similar supported living development. Variations on this approach include the potential for multiple units in close proximity, with on- or off-site light support, or several individuals sharing a house with light on- or off-site support. Co-op housing, individual ownership, and shared housing approaches could adopt this model of community living. Where funding is available from government or other sources, agencies potentially could be engaged to provide wrap-around services.


A Brief Introduction to First Place in Phoenix, Arizona


For more detailed information about First Place and this approach to supported housing, view this extended interview with Denise Resnick, Founder and President/CEO, First Place – AZ


2. Semi-independent Living/Light Supports 


  • Cost 2/5 (lower support costs)
  • Extent of support: 3/5 (can range according to need)
  • Availability 3/5 (moderate access; can be challenging to access on an extended basis)

A semi-independent living/light support model entails engagement in a market rent or low-income unit, with a light support package that provides low cost supports, for instance, weekly check-ins and a monthly social activity from a community agency. This arrangement is built into a community model, and can be implemented within other models such as a roommate model whereby a support individual could receive subsidized or free rent for light support. 

Hear more about this style of housing from John Seigner


3. Shared Roommates or Helper


  • Cost: 3/5 (can be challenging to access on an extended basis)
  • Extent of support: 3/5 (can range according to need)
  • Availability: 3/5 (moderate access)

A shared roommate or helper in a housing unit would likely fit for individuals able to live relatively independently i.e., who want to their own apartment, but require some light support. Communal space for social interaction, meals, recreation and programming can be offered. In properties with multiple units, a rent-subsidized suite could be offered to an individual or family providing support to the residents. In planning this type of housing, such a suite/rent subsidy scheme could be included in the initial capital cost.

Meet Taryn and her family as they reflect on their housing solution


4. Home sharing


  • Cost: 3/5 (moderate support costs, according to support requirements)
  • Extent of support: 3/5 (varied according to need)
  • Availability: 3/5 (moderate access)

In this approach, a family opens their home and provides support as agreed upon and is commensurate with the support needs of the individual (which can be negligible to substantial). This support is offered in an inclusive family-oriented environment. Funding support may be accessed by government or private funds, and can be agency-managed or supported by the individual and/or their family-of-origin. Variations of this model include living in an independent suite on the premises of a family property (e.g., secondary suite), but with support from the family in the other part of the property. As another approach, individuals and/or families could purchase a home, and rent it to a supportive family who live in the home and/or another part of the home.


5. Community Care Group Home


  • Cost: 5/5 (extensive support costs, provincial/territorial payer resources potentially can be sought)
  • Extent of support: 5/5 (Continual 24/7 support)
  • Availability: 2/5 (varied, but limited access)

For those with substantial support needs, a housing collectivity (3-4 people) provides continual support in a community-based setting with funding support from provincial/territorial payers. This could include government-transfer funding, through direct agency or family managed services, depending on provincial/territorial guidelines. A common approach involves families of approximately three individuals requiring support who would pool resources to secure a home and make arrangements for support providers in the home (e.g., shifts that cover a 24/7 rotation). This arrangement may be most conducive when individual residents have similar support needs and common affinity with this housing approach. Families involved need to come to a common understanding about the house arrangement and support plan. A business plan is developed related to the acquisition of the housing unit and plan for support personnel. Pooling support dollars from the provincial/territorial payer allows for or subsidizes staff support costs.

Variations in this style of housing include the potential for congregate housing sites in one or more buildings to allow for sharing of staff as well as communal/community activity. Of note, more than 3 or 4 residents in a single unit likely requires a different housing/care designation, depending on jurisdictional requirements; hence careful investigation about organizing this type of housing is recommended.


Back to Top


Steps for Moving Forward


Implementing a housing plan requires attention to multiple factors that contribute to a life of quality for the individual with autism and/or intellectual disability. Considering what is valued and your/their preferences, optimal location, support requirements, sensory needs, safety planning, etc. are integral to a comprehensive plan. Training for support personnel is important, as is considering ways and places to meaningfully engage in community that promote quality of life and support the individual to thrive. 

The following questions invite consideration for determining and planning for particular housing solutions.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What are your/your family member’s hope for housing now and in the future?
  2. Of the options presented in this Toolkit, what style of housing could support that hope?
  3. What resources are needed to move toward your preferred housing option?
  4. What type and extent of support would be needed?
  5. How could this level of support be paid for on an ongoing basis?

Activity: Develop a Housing ‘Business Plan”

Write out Your Housing Plan

  1. Aims and Approach
    • Vision and goals such as location and housing arrangement
    • Support needs
    • Preferred housing style and why

  2. Talk with other families and support agencies regarding how they have navigated this housing solution

  3. Write out a Business Plan
    • Funding sources for your housing style
      • Capital costs
      • Monthly costs
    • Funding sources
      • What resources are available?
      • What additional resources are needed?
    • How could needed resources be secured over time?

  4. Plan for Sustainability


A Few Final Thoughts… with John Seigner


Appendix A: Some Housing Resources in Selected Canadian Cities

Below is a list with examples of housing resources in the following cities, illustrating various urban municipalities across Canada. Note that we only provide three examples of selected types of resources for each city and the rates listed (if provided) are based on what was reported to us at the time of data collection. Inclusion on this list does not indicate an endorsement by AIDE Canada. Rates and estimates for each region are constantly changing, so it is important to independently verify all services offered and costs associated with each organization. We are not responsible for the accuracy of this information.

St. John's

Click Here to Download!


Back to Top



Appendix B: Supported Housing Infographic


Click Here to Download!


Back to Top
Load more reviews
How helpful was this resource?
Comment by from