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May. 13, 2011

Weinberg Foundation and Maryland to Fund Housing for the Disabled

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Baltimore–The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and the state of Maryland have partnered to create the “Affordable Rental Housing Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities” initiative, which the partners say is the first of its kind in the nation. Under a memorandum of understanding, the Weinberg Foundation and various state departments will work to finance affordable housing throughout the state for very-low-income persons with disabilities who meet certain eligibility criteria.

The Weinberg Foundation has thus far committed a $1 million capital grant to the program. The new rental housing developed with the assistance of program funding will specifically be for people with disabilities who receive either Supplemental Security Income or Supplemental Security Disability Income from Social Security.

Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will refer interested nonprofit owners of projects receiving DHCD funding awards to the Weinberg Foundation for consideration. The foundation, in coordination with DHCD, will determine the number of “Weinberg Apartments” within a given development, which is expected to be 5 percent to 10 percent of the total units.

Once the foundation approves a property, it will transfer its funding to DHCD and the department will be responsible for closing the financing, disbursing the funds for construction, and monitoring the project for compliance with the Weinberg unit requirements. The first Weinberg units are expected to be available for occupancy in late 2012. Rents for these apartments will be set at 15 percent to 30 percent of area median income (AMI), in contrast to the 60 percent of AMI generally paid by non-disabled, low-income persons under other programs, such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.

The foundation anticipates that there will be funding over the long run for affordable housing initiatives of this kind, despite the current climate of austerity. “There is still state money for low-income housing, but our primary leverage is with the ongoing federal low-income housing tax credits that Maryland DHCD distributes in a competitive grant process,” Stan Goldman, the foundation’s program director for health and disabilities, tells MHN. “In addition, federal legislation has been passed to reinvigorate HUD 811 funding, but there’s no funding yet. Maryland feels that it can compete for that federal money, if it comes available, in 2012.”

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