HUD grant to help families with disabilities pay rent
As many as 64 households could benefit from vouchers in St. Mary’s, Calvert
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.