HUD grant to help fam­i­lies with dis­abil­i­ties pay rent

As many as 64 house­holds could ben­e­fit from vouch­ers in St. Mary’s, Calvert

The Enterprise - - News - By DANDAN ZOU dzou@somd­ Twit­ter: @CalRecDANDAN

Hous­ing of­fi­cials said last week a fed­eral grant will help dozens of lo­cal fam­i­lies who have mem­bers with dis­abil­i­ties af­ford per­ma­nent hous­ing in the area.

St. Mary’s and Calvert coun­ties are ex­pected to re­ceive $721,301 in fed­eral dol­lars in Novem­ber, the U.S. Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment an­nounced last week.

The grant came through HUD’s Main­stream Hous­ing Choice Voucher Pro­gram, which will pro­vide more than $4 mil­lion to help 454 Mary­lan­ders liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties pay rent.

Hous­ing of­fi­cials said the vouch­ers will be used to help 64 lo­cal fam­i­lies or in­di­vid­u­als pay their rent. The funds are de­signed to help low-in­come, non-el­derly per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties.

“We have a need here,” Shawn Kingston, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Calvert Hous- ing Au­thor­ity, said by phone Fri­day. “There’s no doubt about it.”

Of­fi­cials said lo­cal hous­ing au­thor­i­ties have wait­ing lists of people try­ing to get hous­ing as­sis­tance. The idea be­hind HUD’s grant is to help people with dis­abil­i­ties stay in their com­mu­nity through pay­ing a por­tion of their rent.

“We have high hous­ing costs and a limited num­ber of af­ford­able hous­ing units,” Dennis Ni­chol­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of St. Mary’s Hous­ing Au­thor­ity, said by phone Fri­day. “And we have house­holds, in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies with dis­abil­i­ties who need per­ma­nent hous­ing and are strug­gling to find af­ford­able places to live in their com­mu­nity and within their com­mu­nity sup­port net­work.”

In St. Mary’s, Ni­chol­son said there are 4,000 fam­i­lies on their wait­ing list to get some form of hous­ing as­sis­tance. The gen­eral list in­cludes veter­ans, the el­der- ly, people who are at risk of be­com­ing home­less and in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties.

“We have people walk in [who are] in var­i­ous sit­u­a­tions,” Ni­chol­son said. “This is a help­ful pro­gram for needs we al­ready have.”

The big­ger in­tent of the grant, Ni­chol­son said, goes back to fur­ther­ing the Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act through help­ing in­di­vid­u­als with dis­abil­i­ties live in in­te­grated set­tings in their own com­mu­ni­ties.

The hous­ing voucher won’t cover all of the rental costs, but helps pay some of it. In St. Mary’s, for ex­am­ple, the HUD’s fair mar­ket rate for a two-bed­room apart­ment is $1,329, ac­cord­ing to a 2018 study by the Na­tional Low In­come Hous­ing Coali­tion.

In St. Mary’s, Ni­chol­son said the voucher pro­gram can pro­vide up to $900 a month for a fam­ily, depend­ing on fam­ily sizes and sit­u­a­tions.

Of­fi­cials said any­one who is un­der the age of 62 with life­long dis­abil­i­ties is el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for help from the new grant. The ap­pli­cant can­not be a reg­is­tered sex of­fender and should have no crim­i­nal his­tory.

There’s also an in­come cap in place. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, a fam­ily who makes less than 80 per­cent of the area’s me­dian in­come is con­sid­ered a low-in­come house­hold, and hence is el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply. For a four-per­son house­hold liv­ing in St. Mary’s, for ex­am­ple, the low-in­come level is set by HUD at $71,900. In Calvert, the num­ber is $74,450.

Ni­chol­son said the grant is an­nual and is sub­ject to fed­eral ap­pro­pri­a­tion from year to year.

“His­tor­i­cally, once an award oc­curs, we are able to have the an­nual fund­ing con­tinue,” he said.

Although the grant is not large enough to help all those in need, Ni­chol­son said “at least we can have an im­pact on those fam­i­lies that we would [other­wise] not have had at all.” To get the pro­gram rolling, Ni­chol­son said the hous­ing au­thor­ity will start with the old­est ap­pli­ca­tions that are ac­tive on their wait­ing list and work for­ward to the present.

“We are very ex­cited” about the com­ing grant, Kingston said. “It’s a great start.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on the grant or el­i­gi­bil­ity, call the Calvert Hous­ing Au­thor­ity at 410-535-5010 or the St. Mary’s Hous­ing Au­thor­ity at 301-866-6590.

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