Information about the most common tenant-based rent subsidy programs that people with a disability are potentially eligible for is provided below.
A rent subsidy program can be one of the best ways to afford a place to live. Rent subsidy programs usually require you to pay 30% of your income for rent and utilities combined. The subsidy program then pays the remaining rent. If you budget carefully, this usually gives you enough money left over to pay for the other things you need. Unfortunately, rent subsidy programs usually have a long waitlist, so it can take a long time before the program contacts you with an opportunity to use the subsidy.
Know Your Rights!
It is illegal in Maryland to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing based on your source of income.
In April of 2020, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation prohibiting the landlords or homeowners from refusing to rent or sell housing due to the applicant’s source of income. This law applies to all areas of Maryland. Before this bill became law, landlords in many parts of Maryland were able to deny an applicant with a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) or other rent subsidy because they didn’t count the voucher as income and consequently, the person did not have enough income to rent the apartment. Examples of other types of income that may not have been counted prior to the passage of this law include alimony, child support and veterans benefits.
Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) (Formerly Called Section 8)
Who operates the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program?
Public housing agencies/authorities administer the HCV program.
What is a Public Housing Agency or Authority (PHA)?
A PHA is a private or government agency that receives federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide affordable housing resources to eligible people. These resources may include Housing Choice Vouchers, public housing and project-based Section 8 vouchers. All PHAs are a bit different in how they operate.
Some PHAs are very large and provide resources for a whole county or large city. Large PHAs typically administer all federally funded programs as well as other locally funded affordable housing programs. Large PHAs may also own apartment communities that have apartments both affordable and market rate apartments.
Some PHAs are very small and may only operate in a small town or county. A small PHA may only operate a HCV program or one public housing property.
What is a voucher?
A voucher is a piece of paper that says you are approved to have part of your rent paid by the PHA. The voucher has information about the size apartment you are approved to rent based on the number of people who will live with you. For example, if you live by yourself, you will be able to rent a 1-bedroom apartment. If you live with a roommate, you will be able to rent a 2-bedroom apartment. The voucher also gives information about the maximum rent an apartment can charge for you to be able to use your voucher there. For example, if your voucher says the maximum rent is $1,200, you will be able to rent an apartment that charges less than $1,200 for rent. If the apartment charges $1,300 for rent, you will not be able to rent that apartment.
How does a voucher work?
A voucher pays the difference between the rent you must pay based on your household income and the total rent for the apartment. People with a voucher must pay 30% of their household income for their rent and utilities. The voucher pays the remaining rent. For example, a person receiving SSI of $783 a month and who lives alone will need to pay approximately $235 for rent and utilities each month. If the same person lives with a roommate who also receives $783 in SSI a month, the household income is now $1,566 and you and your roommate will need to pay $470 for rent and utilities.
How can someone get a voucher?
The PHA will have a waitlist for their vouchers. People can put their name on the waitlist if the list is open. When you put your name on the waitlist, the date and time of your application will be documented.
When the PHA has a voucher that is available, they will send a notice to the people who have been on the waitlist for the longest period of time. The PHA will check the eligibility of the people who respond to the notice and will issue the voucher to eligible people.
The PHA will attempt to contact the person on the waitlist two times. If the person does not respond to either notice, the PHA will remove them from the waitlist.
What if the waitlist is closed?
Sometimes the waitlist is closed. The PHA will close the waitlist when they have many more people on it than they have vouchers. Some PHAs keep their waitlist open all the time but require people to re-register every year. If a person doesn’t re-register, they will be removed from the waitlist. Because of the large number of people on a voucher waitlist and the small number of vouchers that become available every year, a person can wait many years before being contacted about a voucher.
Some Important Things to Know About Housing Choice Vouchers:
PHAs have a priority to issue vouchers to people who live and/or work in their area. For example, a PHA serving a county will prioritize people living or working in that county. Likewise, a city or town PHA will prioritize people living or working in that municipality. If you live in a county with one PHA and work in a city with another PHA you can be eligible for a voucher in both places.
Porting – the HCV program allows people to move or “port” their voucher to a different PHAs area. If you live or work in the PHA’s jurisdiction, you can immediately port your voucher to another PHAs area. For example, if you live in one county and get a voucher, you can port it to another part of the state. You can even port your voucher to a different state. However, please know that the PHA where you want to live must be willing to accept the voucher or the PHA where you currently use the voucher must agree to continue to pay the rent for your voucher.
Tips for Applying to a HCV Waitlist
- Always list a second contact person on your waitlist application so they can get notices too.
- State that you are a person with a disability on the application. Many PHAs have special vouchers for people with disabilities. The PHA will pull names from the waitlist of people who indicate they have a disability when contacting people for these special vouchers.
- Always notify the PHA when you move and give them your new address. This way, you won’t miss notices.
Types of Vouchers
There are several types of Housing Choice Vouchers, some of which are for specific populations.
These are vouchers for anyone with low income who is eligible.
These are vouchers for people with disabilities. Sometimes special priority is given for people with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 62 who are living in an institution or group home, people who are homeless and people who are at risk of institutionalization or homelessness.
Non-Elderly Disabled (NED) Category I
These are vouchers for people with disabilities who are between the ages of 18 and 62 at the time they rent a unit with the voucher.
NED Category II
These are vouchers for people with disabilities between ages 18 and 62 who are living in an institution such as a nursing facility, chronic hospital, public institution for people with mental illness or public institution for people with intellectual disabilities.
Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (VASH)
These are vouchers for veterans who have a disability and who are receiving case management services from the Veterans Administration.
Family Unification Program (FUP)
These are vouchers are for two populations:
- Families for whom the lack of adequate housing is a primary factor in the imminent placement of the family’s child or children in out-of-home care, or the delay in the discharge of the child or children to the family from out-of-home care.
- There is no time limitation on FUP family vouchers.
- Youth aged 18-24 who have left foster care or will leave within 90 days and youth aged 16 and older who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. These vouchers are good for a period not to exceed 36 months.
Maryland Money Follows the Person Bridge Subsidy Program
This is a Maryland tenant-based rent subsidy program for people who are moving from an institution to renting their own apartment. The program is a partnership between the Maryland Money Follows the Person Program at the Maryland Department of Health and local participating PHAs. The MFP program funds the participant’s rent for up to the first three years of their tenancy. At or before 3 years, the local participating PHA will transition the person to a Housing Choice Voucher or public housing unit, as chosen by the participant. To apply for this program, the person’s case manager must place them on the Maryland Partnership for Affordable Housing Program Waitlist, which is managed by the Maryland Department of Disabilities.
Maryland Developmental Disabilities Rent Subsidy Program (DDARSP)
The Maryland Developmental Disabilities Rent Subsidy Program (DDARSP) is a tenant-based rent subsidy program that is funded by the Maryland Department of Health Developmental Disabilities Administration. The program is operated in partnership with the Maryland Department of Disabilities which manages the waitlist. The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development which verifies income eligibility, inspects units prior to leasing and makes monthly rent payments to landlords.
The DDARSP requires tenants to pay 30% of their household income for rent and utilities. It pays the remaining rent directly to the landlord. As a tenant-based program, participants are able to search for and lease a home anywhere in Maryland that meets their needs and is within the program rent and housing quality standards. Participants are also able to move to a different qualifying home in Maryland and use the DDARSP to help pay the rent after fulfilling their one-year lease. Rents for eligible units must be within the Small Area Fair Market Rent for the zip code where the property is located. In addition, all units must pass the required Housing Quality Standards inspection prior to being leased. Participants will need to be recertified for program eligibility annually.
People are eligible for the DDARSP if they meet the following criteria:
- Age 18 and older.
- Receives at least one service through a DDA Medicaid waiver services or on the DDA waitlist for services in the Crisis Resolution category.
- Have household income that is at or below 50% of the area median income in the area where they will rent a unit.
- Not currently housed with a rent subsidy from a public source or living in public housing.
People who are eligible for the DDARSP are prioritized for the rent subsidy based on the following criteria and in this order:
- Literally homeless – living on the street, in an emergency shelter, in a tent, in a place not meant for people to live, etc.
- At risk of being homeless – living with friends or family but will lose this shelter within 14 days; received a foreclosure or eviction notice.
- Unaccompanied youth – under age 25 living with friends or family for more than 60 days and not at risk of losing this shelter within the next 14 days.
- Family with Children/Youth – family with children/youth living with friends/family for more than 60 days and not at risk of losing shelter within 14 days.
- Fleeing/attempting to flee domestic violence – individual or family who is fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.
- Individual is in temporary housing – age 25 or older living with friends/family for more than 60 days and not at risk for losing shelter within the next 14 days.
- Transitioning from an institution, including a State Residential Center, nursing facility, chronic hospital, or psychiatric hospital
- Living with a caregiver who is age 55 or older or who is no longer able to care for the applicant
- Transitioning from a group home, Shared Living, or foster care
People who are not in one of the above priority categories will be offered an opportunity for a rent subsidy based on the date and time stamp of their application to the program waitlist.
How to Apply
The program waitlist is web-based and is managed by the Maryland Department of Disabilities. People who meet the above eligibility criteria and are interested in applying to the program must have a housing goal in their DDA Person Centered Plan (PCP) and must have a Housing Support Service provider that is approved by DDA. Referrals to Housing Support Provider agencies are made by the person’s Coordinator of Community Services. Only Housing Support Service specialists can place someone on the waitlist for this program.
For more information, visit the DDA Housing webpage and be sure to talk with your Housing Support Services specialist.
Reporting Changes in Income
When you are using a rent subsidy, you pay rent that is based on your household income. Household income includes the income of all adults who live in your home and Social Security benefits for some children. If there is a change in household income it must be reported right away.
Reporting Increases in Income
Typically, Increases in income of more than $200/month need to be reported to the voucher administrator right away. They will recalculate your rent and you will pay a bit more rent every month.
Reporting Decreases in Income
Any decrease in income can be reported right away. Your rent will be recalculated and you will pay less rent every month.