How to Get Started

When it comes to finding affordable, independent housing for your adult with a disability the process can be very confusing. It is often hard to know where to start. There are many questions to answer and issues to think through. The best first step is to educate yourself on the different agencies that exist to help, and the different paths you could take to achieve the goal of independent living for your loved one.

What are Community Service Boards (CSBs)?

Community Service Boards are agencies within county governments. Their role is to provide services for people of all ages that have mental illness, substance-use disorders, or developmental disabilities. They are the first stop for any family as they can help identify governmental support that your loved one qualifies for including social security benefits, Medicaid Waivers, housing assistance, etc.

Take a look at our Guide to Community Service Boards.


What are Medicaid Waivers?

The waiver is a long-term support system for someone who will have long-term care needs. Based on a set of criteria and an evaluation, children and adults with disabilities can qualify for a waiver from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. These waivers allow the individual to receive a variety of services at no or little cost. The type of waiver one receives determines the scope of the services. In Virginia there are three types of waivers – Community Living, Family and Individual Supports, and Building Waivers. Community Service Boards can help you start to the process to see if your child qualifies for a waiver.

Learn more about each waiver included in our Guide to Community Service Boards.


We Have a Waiver or are on the Waiver Waitlist. What is next?

Once you have a waiver or are on the waitlist, there are several housing resources available to you. This includes everything from rent assistance to Properties with DD leasing preferences (more about this below).

Learn more about the options in our Guide to Housing Resources.


What is the Settlement Agreement Population?

The Settlement Agreement Population (SAP) consists of people with developmental disabilities who either (1) are transitioning from an institutional setting and meet the level of care for a Medicaid DD Waiver, (2) currently receive Medicaid DD Waiver services, or (3) are on the waitlist for a Medicaid DD Waiver. An individual must be age 18 or older to be referred for housing resources aimed at the Settlement Agreement Population. If your adult with a disability makes more than $28,200 a year, they cannot qualify for the SAP.


What is a leasing preference?

A leasing preference enables a property to prioritize a rental application for a person in the Settlement Agreement Population over other applications for a specific unit. The units are made available first to people in the SAP, however, they are not held indefinitely.

What is the Department of Aging and Rehabilitation Services (DARS)?

DARS is an agency within the state of Virginia whose mission is to improve the employment, quality of life, security, and independence of older Virginians, Virginians with disabilities, and their families.  Under DARS there is a Rehabilitation division as well as an Office of Disability Services. Within that office there are Centers for Independent Living. These groups can help with assistive technology, support services, employment training, and life skills training.

Learn more about DARS and the offices in Northern VA in our Guide to DARS.

What is the VA Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services?

The goal of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services is to supporting individuals by promoting recovery, self-determination, and wellness in all aspects of life. Within the developmental services division there is a focus on housing. The state of Virginia is broken into regions with a housing specialist assigned to each one. These specialists are a great resource to help you understand the housing and supports available, especially if your child has a waiver and is part of the Settlement Agreement Population.

Find the DBHDS Housing Specialist in your region.