I know many of you are distracted in the summertime (my readership always dips from June to August). This summer, though, some folks with family members who receive residential supports in D.C. have been distracted not just by the heat, but also by some hard realities about housing costs. In this blog post I’ll share some practical information that may come in handy, and not just for those receiving services from DDA. (DDA is the arm of the Department on Disability Services that administers the I/DD waiver – see my page on Acronyms and Organizations if you’d like to know more.) So keep reading, all of you…
Although D.C.’s I/DD waiver can’t cover housing costs, DDA uses local funds to pay rent for people up to a designated rent cap. Traditionally, DDA has allowed the rent to exceed that cap as long as someone reliably pays the excess. However, recently DDA has been quietly refusing to allow such “top-ups” to take place.
The problem with this is obvious. People currently receiving residential supports in apartments over the rent cap (or being lifted above the cap by annual increases – see below) are being told they will have to move. And DDA is placing many new entrants to the waiver program in suburban Maryland apartments. In either case, people are often being told to move away from family, jobs, familiar services, doctors and the like. Whatever the motivation for this change, it does not serve the goal of community integration. Speak up and be heard on this if you hope for an exception, because they are few and far between. But you are not alone! On this or other issues, if you need help with advocacy and you aren’t getting anywhere on your own, reach out to the Quality Trust – https://www.dcqualitytrust.org/ - and they may be able to help. (Full disclosure, I’m on the QT board - and while you’re at it, make a donation if you’re able!)
What’s even stranger about all this is that, just as DDA is taking a harder line on rent top-ups, it may be working on a policy to actually make it easier for people to live where they want. I’m told this policy will be reviewed in the fall at one of the regular open meetings of the Waiver Advisory Committee, Mondays 2-4 at DDS (contact for these meetings is Gregory Banks, firstname.lastname@example.org). If you want to be sure the new policy goes in the right direction, let DDS know that. Let’s make sure community integration is honored in both word and deed.
Now here’s the part that also matters to those not receiving waiver supports. Last year the council passed a bill which lowers the amount of the allowed rent increase for the elderly and people with disabilities who are in rent-controlled apartments. To get this benefit, you need to complete the attached form: https://tinyurl.com/y8roygkb. (I check my links before sharing and they are virus-free!). We’ve done this, and it did lower the rent, even though a senior supervisor in DDA told us it wouldn’t (!). And notice that all you really need is a doctor’s note stating that the person qualifies under the Americans with Disabilities Act (Happy 28th anniversary ADA!). That means you don’t have to provide private information like a social security number. So whether the person you support is or isn’t getting residential waiver services, if they’re renting in a D.C. rent-controlled building, fill out the form and give it to the landlord. It can only help.
Before closing, I want to thank the folks who have provided much of the above information. People come to me with information they want me to put out there, and I hugely appreciate it. I really do need your input and I will respect your confidentiality. So thanks for the tips, which will hopefully help others. This blog is a labor of love but I couldn’t do it without all of you.