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learning from each other: security deposit assistance in marin county, ca1

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Agency: Housing Authority of Marin County
(Size of WtW Program: 60 vouchers)


Too often prospective housing choice voucher families discover late in the housing search and leasing processes that the cost of the security deposit is not covered under the housing choice voucher program. Not having budgeted for this expense, the family fails to lease under the program. This situation results in loss of time and money for the family, the PHA, and the owner. Many WtW families face a double financial burden: expenses related to securing employment (child care, wardrobe, transportation, and other job-related costs) and expenses for securing housing (housing security deposits, utility security deposits, and moving expenses). To lessen these burdens, some WtW voucher programs may choose to provide financial assistance or loans to WtW families to pay for up-front costs such as security deposits.

Solution: Rental Deposit Guarantee Program (RDG) with the Housing Authority of Marin County (CA)

The RDG program was set up in the late 1980s to help low-income renters with move-in costs and security deposits. The housing authority, which manages approximately 1,800 Section 8 units, encourages landlords to accept the security deposit from the tenant in installments, with no interest. Payment plans typically range from two to six months. If the landlord agrees, the housing authority issues a certificate guaranteeing the payment if the tenant fails to pay. On average, the amount guaranteed per family is about $500, but RDG Program rules allow as much as $800.

Although earlier RDG program participants typically were not receiving rental assistance, Section 8 recipients were not excluded from the program. To be eligible for the program, a family must be low-income according to HUD definitions (household income at or below 80 percent of the area median) and must also demonstrate the ability to pay the monthly installments. RDG program staff go over a family's budget to help determine whether the family can make the payments after meeting monthly living expenses.


The Marin Community Foundation provided $50,000 to set up a fund to cover defaults. Thanks to the high repayment rate, about $37,000 remains in the fund. The foundation also provides about $30,000 per year to support a half-time staff person and cover administrative costs.


So far the program has been quite successful with a repayment rate of approximately 90 percent. Further, since the 1995 change in Section 8 rules affecting security deposits, applications from Section 8 participants have been increasing.

Contact: Kate Bristol, Senior Program Manager
Housing Authority of the County of Marin 4020 Civic Center Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 491-2348

1 This program was not designed specifically for the WtW program. However, the program description has been adapted to show how it could still apply.

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