Company’s most recent blog post discusses the Other Housing Information feature of the Independent Living Program and Housing Project, and provides a brief discussion of the Community Development Block Grant.

Online PR News – 17-November-2013 – Washington, D.C. – M&L Special Needs Planning, LLC is a financial and life-planning company that caters to families with special needs. Recently, these financial experts have turned their attention to an issue that has becoming increasingly serious in the special needs community: housing for individuals with disabilities.

On November 11th, the special needs planning company will be launching their much-anticipated Independent Living Program and Housing Project database, an online resource for housing programs and information from across the country. According to M&L, the project was inspired by the increasing severity of the housing crisis for individuals with disabilities – the database evolved from the difficulty they experienced trying to find current, relevant, and reliable information on housing programs.

Although there are a lot of different features of the database, M&L staff try to emphasize the three that they feel are especially important – the first being the details regarding different independent living and housing programs from all over the United States. Theses details include contact information, and funding/eligibility requirements for each program, among other things. Secondly, this information is organized/categorized by state, so that subscribers can easily access information that is relevant to them, and can compare state housing resources. The third feature that M&L feels is extremely beneficial is the addition of a vast array of “other” housing information to this database.

As M&L writes, many people ask what exactly this “other” information is – according to staff, that question can be hard to answer. According to M&L, “Essentially, everything we come across in our research that we feel might help individuals with their housing search - articles, government policies, advocate organizations, etc. – goes in the database. We have included the definitions of housing options, examples of different housing models, information on how to begin your own grass-roots housing model in your state, articles which cover the latest housing news, studies which analyze a vast array of topics relevant to housing issues – and much, much more.”

In the latest installment of their weekly blog, M&L provides an example of the type of ”other housing information” that will be in the database by publishing a brief description of the Community Development Block Grant program.

What is the Community Development Block Grant?

As M&L writes in the blog, the Community Development Block Grant (CBDG) is an annual grant offered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As one of the longest running grant programs offered by this department, it is intended to help communities by providing resources to address community development needs. According to HUD’s website, it “works to ensure decent affordable housing, to provide services to the most vulnerable in our communities, and to create jobs through the expansion and retention of services.”

M&L says that the CBDG grants have three requirements: the funds must be intended to help lower-to-moderate income people, and/or to eradicate “slums” or blighted areas, and/or to address urgent threats to health and safety of residents. As well, applicants must prepare a package that illustrates the need for the funds and provides a plan as to how they would be used. This plan must have been drawn from and emphasize community and citizen participation.

How Can the Community Development Grant Help My Family with Special Needs?

M&L feels that this program can help individuals with special needs in a number of ways. Firstly, it is aimed towards individuals with lower-to-moderate incomes - many individuals with special needs fall into this category. Secondly, one component of the program addresses the development and/or creation of affordable housing – a key aspect of the grant that can help individuals with special needs. Thirdly, the funds can be used to renovate currently existing buildings to ensure that they are accessible to individuals with special needs. In addition, advocate and housing organizations that exist to help individuals with special needs can access these funds to continue to develop programs to address the current housing crisis.

Another facet of the CBDG that M&L states is especially important is the program’s commitment to ensuring that recipients comply with Fair Housing regulations. In January of 2008, a memo released by HUD placed emphasis on CBDG recipients ensuring that the funds being used support Fair Housing Agencies, and that the recipients receiving these funds meet one of the definitions of a fair housing organization.
Fair Housing organizations fall into two categories: Qualified Fair Housing Enforcement Organization (QFHO), or Fair Housing Enforcement Organization (FHO). Both of these categories require that the organization be a private, tax-exempt and charitable, have experience with complaint intake and investigation (QFHO requires two years experience and FHO must be currently engaged in the same activities) and both are required to continue these investigation, complaint intake activities. Essentially, every recipient of these grant funds must ensure that they follow the Fair Housing Act, which means that all the housing programs have to be accessible to individuals with special needs.

How Can I Access this Program?

The CBDG has three eligible grantees: principal cities of Metropolitan Statistical Areas, other metropolitan areas with populations of at least 50,000, and qualified urban counties with populations of at least 200,000. This means that special interest organizations and groups cannot apply for these funds directly. They can, however, partner with municipalities to apply for project funds. More information on this topic can be found on the HUD website, under CBDG. State information is also available through individual state government websites. As an example, M&L directs Maryland residents to the Maryland’s Department of Housing & Community Development.

M&L Special Needs Planning, LLC works to help families acquire the information, resources and tools needed to plan for the future of their family members with special needs. Through discussion and analysis of issues relevant to those individuals with special needs, these certified financial planners strive to educate families and help them better plan for their financial future. Those wishing to read more about housing for individuals with disabilities, or to subscribe to their Independent Living Program and Housing Project can visit the M&L Special Needs Planning, LLC website and are encouraged to contact them for more information.