Options for Making Rent affordable
Earned income: Do you earn enough money to pay the rent and still have enough money for utilities, food, clothing, insurance, gifts, hair cuts, transportation, cable and all of the other things you may need?
Assistance from family/friends: Family and/or friends may be able to help you pay your rent and utilities. However, be sure to understand the impact this may have on your SSI benefits.
Assistance from a special needs trust: A Special Needs Trust can also help you pay your rent and utilities. Just like getting help from family/friends, getting funds from your trust can also impact your SSI benefits.
Roommate income: If you have a roommate to share expenses with, it can be more affordable to have your own place. As long as your roommate does not pay more than ½ of the rent/mortgage, utilities and food costs, their contribution to household expenses will not be considered income and therefore won’t affect your SSI benefits.
Flat Rent Affordable Housing: Low Income Housing Tax Credit and other state-funded multi-family communities get special funding from the government to build affordable housing. The homes are typically apartments, and can be rented by people with income that is between 30% and 60% of Area Median Income. Depending on your income and other resources, you may be able to afford to rent one of these apartments without a rent subsidy.
Income-based Rent Subsidy: 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 years before the program contacts you with an opportunity to use the subsidy.
Types of Rent Subsidy Programs
Tenant-based: The rent subsidy is attached to the person. The person can shop around for a home that meets their needs and rents for a price that is within the subsidy program guidelines. The person can rent an apartment for a year and then decide to move and use their subsidy somewhere else. This type of subsidy is the most flexible and gives the most choice.
Project-based: The rent subsidy is attached to the unit/apartment. A person must qualify to live in the apartment with the subsidy. As long as the person continues to qualify and live in the unit that is subsidized, they have the benefit of the rent subsidy. However, if they decide to move, they cannot take the subsidy with them to rent another apartment.
Rent Subsidy Example
With a subsidy, the tenant(s) pay 30% of household income for rent and utilities.
The utility allowance is subtracted from 30% of income to determine the monthly rent.
The reduction in rent assists the household with utility costs. Tenants MUST pay the entire utility bill.
Grace: One-Person Household
Grace’s Monthly Income: $783
30% of Income: $235
Utility Allowance (example): $75
Monthly Rent: $160
Grace and Frankie:
Grace’s Monthly Income: $783
Frankie’s Monthly Income: $960
Household Income: $1,743
30% of Income: $523
Utility Allowance: $105
Monthly Rent: $418
Information about the most common tenant-based rent subsidy programs that people with a disability are potentially eligible for is provided below.
Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) (Formerly Called Section 8)
Who operates the Housing Choice Voucher program? Public housing agencies/authorities administer the HCV program.
What is a public housing agency/authority (PHA)? A PHA is a private or government agency that receives federal funding from the 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. 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 market rate apartments as well as affordable apartments.
Some PHAs are very small and may only operate in a small town or county. A small PHA may only operate a Housing Choice Voucher 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 will live by yourself, you will be able to rent a 1-bedroom apartment. If you will 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. For example, if your voucher says the maximum rent is $1,200, you will be able to rent an apartment that charges less that $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, and if the person does not respond to either notice, the PHA will remove them from the waitlist.
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.
TIPS for Applying to a HCV Waitlist
1. Always list a second contact person on your waitlist application so they can get notices too.
2. 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.
3. Always notify the PHA when you move and given 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.
Fair Share – These are vouchers for anyone who is eligible.
Mainstream – These are vouchers for people with disabilities. Sometimes special priority is given for people with disabilities between the age 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 age of 18 and 62 at the time they receive the voucher.
NED Category II – These are vouchers for people with disabilities between age 18 and 62 who are living in an institution such as a nursing facility, chronic hospital, public institution for people with mental illness and 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.
- For a period not to exceed 36 months, otherwise eligible youths who have attained at least 18 years and not more than 24 years of age and who have left foster care, or will leave foster care within 90 days, in accordance with a transition plan described in section 475(5)(H) of the Social Security Act, and is homeless or is at risk of becoming homeless at age 16 or older.
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 city/town. 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 PHAs 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.
List of Maryland Public Housing Agencies/Authorities
- Annapolis: www.hacamd.org
- Anne Arundel County Housing Commission: www.hcaac.com
- Baltimore City Housing Authority: www.habc.org
- Baltimore County Housing Authority: www.baltimorecountymd.gov/departments/housing
- Calvert County Housing Authority: www.calverthousing.org
- Cambridge Housing Authority: 700 Weaver Ave., Cambridge, MD 21613 Telephone: (410)228-6856
- Carroll County Bureau of Housing: www.carrollcountymd.gov/government/directory/citizen-services/housing-community-development/
- Cecil County Housing and Community Development: www.ccgov.org/government/community-services/housing
- Charles County Housing Authority: www.charlescountymd.gov/services/health-and-human-services/housing-services/housing-authority
- College Park Housing Authority: www.haccpmd.agency
- Crisfield Housing Authority: 115 S 7th Street
Crisfield, MD 21817 Telephone: (410)968-0289
- Cumberland Housing Authority: www.cumberlandhousing.org
- Elkton Housing Authority: www.elktonha.org
- Frederick City Housing Authority: www.hacfrederick.org
- Frostburg Housing Authority: www.frostburgcity.org/frostburg_business/location-frostburg-housing-authority-frost-village/details
- Glenarden Housing Authority: 8639 Glenarden Pkwy, Glenarden, MD 20706 Telephone: (301)772-0880
- Hagerstown Housing Authority: www.hagerstownha.com
- Harford County Housing Agency: www.harfordcountymd.gov/244/Housing-Community-Development
- Havre De Grace Housing Authority: www.hdgha.org
- Howard County Housing Commission: www.househoward.org/contact.html
- Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development: https://dhcd.maryland.gov/Pages/default.aspx
- Provides housing authority programs for rural areas of Maryland with no other PHA, including Allegany County, Caroline County, Dorchester County, Frederick County, Garrett County, Kent County, Somerset County, Wicomico County, Talbot County and Worcester County
- Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission: www.hocmc.org
- Prince George’s County Housing Authority: www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/906/Housing-Authority
- Queen Anne’s County Housing Authority: www.qacha.org
- Rockville Housing Enterprises: www.rockvillemd.gov/117/Rockville-Housing-Enterprises
- St. Mary’s County Housing Authority: www.stmaryshousing.org
- Talbot Housing Commission: www.talbotchamber.org/list/member/housing-commission-of-talbot-county-1068
- Washington County Housing Authority: www.hawcmd.org
- Westminster Office of Housing Services: www.westminstermd.gov/137/Housing-Services
- Wicomico County Housing Authority: 911 Booth Street Salisbury, MD 21801-3005
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 3 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.
Source of Income Discrimination
In April 2020, Maryland’s Governor signed legislation prohibiting the sale or rental of housing in all areas of Maryland due to the applicant’s source of income. Before this bill became law, landlords in many parts of Maryland were able to deny an applicant with a HCV 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 veteran’s benefits.
Project and unit-based rent subsidy programs provide rental assistance to qualifying people in a unit/apartment that participates in the rent subsidy program. The rent subsidy is tied to the apartment. During the time a participant lives in the subsidized apartment they benefit from the rent subsidy. However, if they decide to move to a different apartment community, they cannot take the rent subsidy with them.
Information on project-based subsidy programs is provided below. The first three programs listed below, including the HUD 811, Weinberg Apartments and Community Choice Homes programs, are solely for people with disabilities. The waitlist for these programs is managed by the Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD). The waitlist is web-based and qualifying people can only be added to the waitlist by their case manager. If you are interested in applying to the waitlist, ask your case manager to contact the Maryland Department of Disabilities at firstname.lastname@example.org
Maryland HUD 811 Project Rental Assistance
The Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Program makes a home in the community affordable for people with disabilities with low income. This is a “project-based” rental assistance program. You will have rent payment assistance while you live in participating units.
- The program links affordable housing with your services and support
- Provides you the independence of living on your own
- You sign the lease and have access to the supports you choose
- With Section 811 Project Rental Assistance the tenant pays 30% of their income for rent and utilities, and the program pays the rest of the rent directly to the landlord.
- Who is Eligible?
- People with disabilities who are:
- Age 18 to under age 62 at the time of leasing
- Medicaid recipients
- Very low income
- Eligible for long term supports and services in Maryland
- Do not have a criminal background that includes a lifetime sex offense registry requirement
- Do not have a criminal background that includes conviction of the production of methamphetamines in Federally-assisted property
- People with disabilities who are:
- How are Applicant’s Prioritized – The program prioritizes applicants as follows:
- People transitioning from an institution to the community
- People at risk of institutionalization due to their housing situation, I.e., homebound, substandard housing conditions
- People moving to independent renting from a DDA Community Pathways waiver group home/ALU; Brain Injury waiver ALU; BHA Residential Rehabilitation Program; CO waiver and MDH-Licensed Assisted Living Facility
- People who are Homeless and Medicaid recipients (as defined by HEARTH Act) in this order:
- Actually homeless
- Imminent risk of homelessness
- Homeless under other Federal statutes (i.e. unaccompanied youth/families w/ youth)
- Fleeing domestic violence
- How to Apply: Contact your Case Manager. Your case manager will complete the pre-screening and application for you.
Weinberg Apartments Program
Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation’s Affordable Rental Housing Opportunities Initiative for Persons with Disabilities
The Affordable Rental Housing Opportunities Initiative for Persons with Disabilities is the result of a partnership between The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and the State of Maryland created to provide affordable rental housing options for persons with disabilities. Designed to build upon the strengths of the Foundation and the State’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program (LIHTC), this initiative seeks to increase accessible, affordable, and independent housing opportunities in the community.
In order to qualify, an applicant must:
- Verify their disability and their receipt of SSI and/or SSDI income. Interested applicants must be referred by their Case Manager utilizing the MDOD web-based waitlist.
- Be between the ages of 18-62
- Be disabled and receiving SSI or SSDI
- Have a gross household income at or between 10-30 percent of AGMI (Area Gross Median Income) in the Maryland county in which they wish to reside
- Not have a criminal background that includes a lifetime sex offense registry requirement
- Not have a criminal background that includes conviction of the production of methamphetamines in Federally-assisted property
- These criteria are subject to additions or modifications. This list should not be considered comprehensive or all-inclusive. Applicants are drawn from the Waiting List as units that meet their needs become available.
How to Apply: Contact your Case Manager. Your case manager will complete the pre-screening and application for you.
Community Choice Homes
This program is a partnership between the Maryland Department of Disabilities and the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County. Community Choice Homes (CCH) provides affordable rental homes in Montgomery County for people with disabilities who have extremely low income.
The Program will provide 30 HOC-owned rental units for people with disabilities for a period of 15 years (CCH units). This is a project-based affordable housing program, and the affordable rents are tied to the CCH units. Participants cannot take the rent subsidy with them if they leave a CCH unit.
Participants will pay 30% of their monthly household adjusted income for rent and utilities while living in a CCH unit. There is no application fee or security deposit requirement for the CCH program. In addition, HOC will pay for moving expenses up to a maximum of $2,000.00.
Priority for referral will be given to applicants on the Maryland Department of Disabilities Weinberg Apartment waitlist who indicate an interest in living in Montgomery County; live or work in Montgomery County at time of referral or previously lived or worked in Montgomery County within the last 5 years and are currently living outside of Montgomery County is an institution or group home; and meet CCH program eligibility, income, and referral criteria. As needed, MDOD will use the HUD 811 Project Rental Assistance waitlist to make referrals to the CCH program.
- Household income at or below 30% of area median income (AMI).
- Income must include cash payment from either SSI or SSDI at the time of initial eligibility determination. Applicants with suspended eligibility for SSI are also eligible.
- Adults, age 18 to 62 at the time of leasing. Participants are able to continue in the program after reaching age 62.
- Current registration on the HOC Housing Path Waitlist.
- Lives or works in Montgomery County at the time of referral or lived or worked in Montgomery County within 5 years of referral and currently lives outside of Montgomery County in an institution or group living setting.
- Criminal background does not include lifetime sex offence registry requirement or conviction of production of methamphetamine on federally assisted property. Criminal background must also meet other HOC eligibility requirements.
- Participants are strongly encouraged to participate in long-term supportive services that meet their individual needs. Participation in supportive services is not a requirement of tenancy.
How to Apply: Contact your Case Manager. Your case manager will complete the pre-screening and application for you.
Project-Based Section 8 Vouchers
- Project-based vouchers (PBVs) are a component of a public housing agency’s (PHA’s) Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) (Section 8) program. The PHA uses its Housing Choice Voucher funding to allocate project-based units to a specific project. Projects are typically selected for PBVs through a competitive process managed by the PHA; although in certain cases projects may be selected non-competitively.
A PHA can use up to 20 percent of its authorized vouchers to project-based units in a specific project if the owner agrees to either rehabilitate or construct the units, or the owner agrees to set-aside a portion of the units in an existing development. In certain cases, the PHA may use an additional 10 percent of its authorized voucher units for PBV assistance. Information as to whether a PHA manages the PBV program may be found by contacting the local PHA.
HUD Section 202 – Housing for the Elderly:
- HUD provides capital advances to finance the construction, rehabilitation or acquisition with or without rehabilitation of structures that will serve as supportive housing for very low-income elderly persons, including the frail elderly, and provides rent subsidies for the projects to help make them affordable.
- The Section 202 program helps expand the supply of affordable housing with supportive services for the elderly. It provides very low-income elderly with options that allow them to live independently but in an environment that provides support activities such as cleaning, cooking, transportation, etc. The program is similar to Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities (Section 811).
- HUD provides interest-free capital advances to private, nonprofit sponsors to finance the development of supportive housing for the elderly. The capital advance does not have to be repaid as long as the project serves very low-income elderly persons for 40 years.
- Project rental assistance funds are provided to cover the difference between the HUD-approved operating cost for the project and the tenants’ contribution towards rent. Project rental assistance contracts are approved initially for 3 years and are renewable based on the availability of funds.
Public housing is housing that is owned and managed by a PHA. The Public Housing Development program provided Federal grants to local public housing authorities (PHAs) to develop housing for low-income families that cannot afford housing in the private market. HUD has not provided new funding for public housing development since FY1994. Public housing provides affordable shelter for low-income families comprised of citizens or eligible immigrants. “Family” is defined as a family with or without children, elderly family, near-elderly family, disabled family, displaced family, the remaining member of a tenant family, or a single person. In general, people pay 30% of their income for rent and utilities.
For information on public housing in Maryland, visit the PHA website in your area
Affording Rental Housing without a Subsidy
Apartments made affordable with government funding: The Low Income Housing Tax Credit program is the nation’s largest financing program for the development of affordable housing. The program allocates millions of dollars each year to every state for development of housing that is affordable to people with income between 30% and 60% of area median. States allocate the funds to affordable housing developers through a competitive proposal process. Developers whose proposals are funded sell the tax credits to financers, who then do not owe taxes on the money for 15 years. Through this process, the developer gets funding to build housing and the financer get tax benefits. Developers typically combine many different types of funds, including the tax credit funds, to create affordable multi-family communities. People who rent the units must meet the income requirements.
“Naturally occurring” affordable units – Sometimes there are apartments and houses that are affordable because of their location, age or the intent of the owner. Some private owners prefer to rent their units at affordable prices because of their mission.
Living with a roommate – Living with a roommate can make housing more affordable. When the housing costs are spread out between two people, the costs are about half of what they would be otherwise. When considering living with a roommate, be sure that the person is someone you can live with and that the rules of your roommate agreement are clear and in writing.
Renting a room – Sometimes people will rent a room in their house to someone. Typically, the homeowner wants to get additional money to help with their housing costs. Sometimes, the homeowner prefers to have someone else in the home with them. Whatever the reason, be sure that the owner is someone you can trust and can live with.
Family/friend financial assistance – Family and friends can sometimes help with housing expenses. Sometimes families will purchase a home for their loved one. Sometimes, families will help by making rent or utility payments. Sometimes, a special needs trust will pay for housing expenses. If you have someone else helping you with housing costs and you receive SSI, be sure to understand the rules and impact on your monthly income. See section I.B. for more information on this topic.
Getting Assistance with Thinking Through Housing Options and Applying for Rent Subsidy Programs
When you want to get your own home, there are a lot of things to think about. It’s good to get help with this from your family and friends. It’s also good to get help from someone who is an expert in housing for people with disabilities. Below are some resources for this kind of help.
DDA Waiver Housing Support Services: The Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration has included a new waiver service called Housing Support Services. People in a DDA waiver can get help with thinking through their housing options, applying to housing programs, looking for affordable housing, understanding their rights and responsibilities as a tenant or homeowner and having continued success as a renter or homeowner.
Community Pathways Waiver
Housing Support Services are time-limited supports to help participants to navigate housing opportunities; address or overcome barriers to housing; and secure and retain their own home.
Housing Support Services include:
- Housing Information and Assistance to obtain and retain independent housing;
- Housing Transition Services to assess housing needs and develop individualized housing support plan; and
- Housing Tenancy Sustaining Services which assist the individual to maintain living in their rented or leased home
MD Centers for Independent Living: The Centers for Independent Living (CIL) in Maryland are seven regional non-profit organizations that work to provide services that promote independent living for all individuals with disabilities, regardless of age, type of disability or income. CILs are governed and managed by individuals with disabilities. CILs are federally funded in every state and also receive other funding through other sources.
Common services available through your local CIL include:
- Peer counseling, support and mentoring
- Independent Living Skills Training
- Information and Referral
- Transition services for youth, people living in institutions, and services that prevent institutionalization
The seven CILs in Maryland include:
- Accessible Resources for Independence (ARI) – Serves Anne Arundel and Howard Counties
- Bay Area CIL – Serves the eastern shore counties including Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, Worchester Counties
- Freedom Center – Serves Carroll and Frederick Counties
- IMAGE Center – Serves Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Harford County
- Independence Now – Serves Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties
- Resources for Independence – Serves Allegany, Garrett and Washington Counties
- Southern Maryland CIL – Serves Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties
Case Management Services in Maryland: Case managers can also help you think through your goal of having your own home. There are different types of case management services in Maryland, and each type helps a particular group of people. Information about case management services and the population they support is below.
Supports Planners – Supports Planning is a program to provide supports planning (case management) services to the participants of the Community Personal Assistance Services (CPAS), Community First Choice (CFC), Increased Community Services (ICS), and the Community Options (CO) Waiver programs. Supports planning services include assisting applicants and participants with accessing Medicaid and non-Medicaid funded home and community-based services and supports (personal care, nurse monitoring, necessary medical supplies, etc.). The support planner also assists participants with maintaining Medicaid eligibility. Eligible Community Options (CO) Waiver applicants in nursing homes receiving Long Term Care Medicaid are provided with assistance to develop a plan to safely transition to the community with supportive services. Supports Planners also assist people with transitioning to independent renting.
Behavioral Health Case Management: Behavioral Health Case Management is a voluntary, community-based service helping individuals who receive services through the public behavioral health system identify, access, develop and coordinate available services and resources, including housing resources.
How it Works:
- A case manager meets with an individual approved to receive this service to conduct a needs assessment. Together, they develop an individual service plan.
- After a plan is developed, case managers meet with participants at least once a month to help them reach their goals by connecting them with needed resources, providing care coordination and advocacy.
- Available to adults 18 years of age or older.
- Must meet medical necessity criteria, as determined by the Maryland Behavioral Health Administration.
- Must have a mental health diagnosis, Medical Assistance, and be referred by a treating mental health professional.