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Housing Choices in the Community

Some DC residents living in a long-term care institution may want to return to the community, but may not have a home or apartment of their own. Others may already live in the community and need assistance with the high cost of housing in the District. The District of Columbia continuously strives to increase the number of affordable housing units throughout the city, especially recognizing that seniors and people living with disabilities (most of whom are living on a fixed income) are two of the groups that are hit the hardest by the lack of affordable housing in our high-priced city.

DC Housing Authority (DCHA) Assistance

For starters, the DC Housing Authority provides assistance to obtain safe, quality, and affordable housing through three types of programs:

DCHA owns and manages 56 public housing properties located throughout the District that provide homes at reduced rents for very low-income families, seniors and persons with disabilities. Tenants pay up to 30 percent of their income as rent.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly known as Section 8), the federal government’s major rental assistance program, gives participants the option to live in the community of their choice. Once qualified participants obtain a voucher, they may find a rental unit in any privately owned property in the city, as long as it meets Fair Market Rent standards established by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The Moderate Rehabilitation Program includes apartment communities throughout Washington, DC that are owned by individual landlords or companies. The assistance provided is called “Project-Based” or “Unit-Based.” This means that tenants who move cannot take the subsidy with them.

For further information on housing programs or whether you qualify for housing assistance, please contact DCHA’s call center at (202) 535-1000.

If you already have a home and need to make home improvements, several other programs are available that might help you.

Handicapped Accessibility Improvement Program (HAIP)

This program provides grants of up to $30,000 for improvements that remove physical barriers within a home for persons with mobility or other physical impairments. Eligible improvements include wheelchair ramps, chair lifts, widening of doorways, and bathroom modifications.

To qualify, your household income must be at or below guidelines established by HUD. These guidelines are based on household size and change annually.

For additional information on this program, please contact the DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) at (202) 442-7200 for the current income limits.

Single-Family Residential Rehabilitation Program

This program is designed to help households finance home repairs that will address DC housing code violations. Funding may be used for activities that include repairing walls and floors, replacing windows and repairing plumbing, electrical, and heating systems. Up to $75,000 in loan financing is available for each project. The program also offers a separate grant of up to $15,000 for roof replacement.

To be eligible applicants must: own and live in their homes as their primary residence; be current on all District and Federal taxes; have an acceptable credit record; and meet household income eligibility requirements.

Senior citizens who are eligible for the program will have the first $10,000 of loan financing deferred for as long as they own and live in the home. The Single-Family Rehabilitation Program also offers grant funding for lead-based paint hazard control as part of each rehabilitation project that disturbs lead-based paint.

This program is also administered by the DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). For additional information, please contact the DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) at (202) 442-7200 for the current income limits.

Adding an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)

If you or a loved one owns a single-family home, adding an ADU (sometimes called an “in-law apartment,” an “accessory apartment,” or a “second unit”) may help you keep your independence or that of a family member as you age or if you become disabled. An ADU is a second living space within a home or on the same lot as a home. It has separate living and sleeping areas, a place to cook, and a bathroom.

Space such as an upper floor, basement, attic, or space over a garage may be turned into an ADU. Family members might be interested in living in an ADU in your home, or, you may want to build a separate living space at your family member’s home.

The cost for an ADU can vary widely depending on how big it is and how much it costs for building materials and workers. Note that you are required by law to obtain a construction permit in the District of Columbia for most new construction or improvements to existing buildings.

For questions concerning an ADU, potentially illegal construction, certificates of occupancy or code enforcement, please call the Zoning Administrator at the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) at (202) 442 -4576.