ISS Housing Subsidy

OPWDD Housing Subsidy 

The OPWDD Housing Subsidy (formerly known as ISS) is designed to support individuals with developmental disabilities who choose to live independently in their communities. These individuals must be financially and legally responsible lease holders for their apartment, and they must contribute 30% of their income towards housing costs. The OPWDD Housing Subsidy works similarly to other government funded housing subsidies, such as the Federal Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8).  

Eligibility Criteria 

According to the OPWDD Housing Subsidy ADM #2022-03, to be eligible for a Housing Subsidy, the individual must: 

  • Have established eligibility for OPWDD services. 
  • Be at least eighteen (18) years old. 
  • Have, or will have, appropriate support services and safeguards to meet their needs in non-certified community housing as documented in their Life Plan. 
  • Be able to live independently without receiving support services that exceed the individual’s authorized service amount. 
  • Have applied for all other benefits they may be eligible for (e.g., SSI/SSD, Housing Choice Voucher Program/Section 8, Social Service Shelter Payments, Food Stamps, HEAP) each year. 
  • Not be receiving another housing subsidy (such as HUD Section 8). 
  • Have sufficient resources to pay for basic essentials after housing costs are paid. 
  • Meet OPWDD’s Allowable Housing Criteria.  
  • Have, or will have, tenancy rights to the housing unit. This means that, at the time the Housing Subsidy and/or stipend is approved and throughout the individual’s tenancy in the housing unit, the property falls within the categories of Allowable Housing.  

Individuals can only access one housing subsidy at a time. Individuals accessing another housing subsidy from another entity, such as HUD Section 8, cannot receive the OPWDD Housing Subsidy. 

Obtaining the OPWDD Housing Subsidy has 2 formal steps. The first step is securing a Preliminary Approval from OPWDD. This is usually done with assistance from the care manager. The second step is to secure a lease for an apartment and submit the subsidy budget so the final rental assistance amount can be determined.  The budget is usually submitted by the Housing Subsidy provider or FI. 

How to Apply for the Subsidy? 

Initiating an OPWDD Housing Subsidy typically begins with the Individual’s Care Manager. However, a Care Manager is not required for an individual to be eligible for an OPWDD Housing Subsidy. If an individual does not have a Care Manager, the individual can initiate the Housing Subsidy Application process by working with a Housing Subsidy Provider Agency or the DDRO.  


The Care Manager must help the individual to apply for other available benefits and housing assistance before applying for an OPWDD Housing Subsidy. Once all other benefit and housing assistance have been exhausted, the Care Manager must complete the OPWDD Housing Subsidy application packet and other related paperwork.  

Care Managers must also find and connect individuals with OPWDD Housing Subsidy Providers and/or Financial Intermediaries (FI). The selected Housing Subsidy Provider Agency must work with the Care Manager to provide any additional information required to finalize the application. The preliminary application packet must include  

  • The OPWDD Housing Subsidy and/or Transition Stipend Application (Attachment C) 
  • A Life Plan with appropriate Safeguards and Staff Action Plans (if applicable) 
  • A Self-Direction budget (if applicable) 
  • Any other documentation requested by the DDRO 

The application must be sent to the DDRO for review. In the NYC region, the submission email address is The DDRO will review the application and determine whether the individual is preliminarily approved for an OPWDD Housing Subsidy. In reviewing the application, OPWDD may ask for additional information. The individual must respond timely to these requests. Care managers and providers must assist the individual in gathering and submitting the additional information as appropriate.  

The DDRO will notify the individual, their Care Manager, and/or Housing Subsidy Provider Agency of the individual’s preliminary approval or disapproval. If the individual has been given preliminary approval by the DDRO, they can begin looking for a housing unit that meets OPWDD’s allowable housing criteria. Approvals are effective for ninety (90) days. If the individual has not found appropriate housing within ninety (90) days, they may ask the DDRO for an extension of the preliminary approval before their ninety (90) day preliminary approval period ends. Requests for preliminary approval extensions are allowed at the discretion of the DDRO. If the extension is not approved, or the individual does not ask for an extension, they must re-apply for preliminary approval of the OPWDD Housing Subsidy. 

I Have an OPWDD Subsidy Approval. Now What? 

Once the preliminary approval is secured, the person needs to find a place to live.  Many community landlords do not know about or understand the OPWDD Housing Subsidy so they might try to deny applicants for unlawful reasons. It is important for applicants/tenants to know their rights. Landlords cannot discriminate due to source of income, and the housing subsidy is a valid source to pay for your home.  For more information, check out: 

The person must also connect with a Housing Subsidy provider agency if they have not already done so. If the person is utilizing Self-Direction, the existing Fiscal Intermediary will be able to help them with the budget process.  


The Block Institute Way 

Let’s face it, this is NYC, that means finding an affordable apartment is tough no matter who you are or how you plan on paying for it. This is why Block Institute has partnered with specific community landlords to help streamline the apartment application process. When an apartment in one of the designated complexes becomes available, the landlord reaches out to the Block Institute Subsidy Team to get connected with OPWDD eligible apartment seekers. Although this not necessarily the standard approach to apartment hunting, we have found it to be quite successful for people who are willing and able to wait for an opening.  


Although the person will have their own lease and a landlord to reach out to like any other community member, the Block Institute Housing Subsidy Team can support them through the apartment application process and explain the details of the lease. If the person chooses Block Institute as their Housing Subsidy provider agency, we will work with them and their care manager to help them understand their role as a tenant, and we will be available to them if they have questions about their apartment or just need general guidance navigating community living.  


I Want Block Institute as My Subsidy Provider. How do I Apply? 

 General inquiries can be sent to or call the Housing Subsidy office at 347-287-9060. There is an online Referral Form that can be completed to get a person’s name on the application waitlist. Click Here or scan the QR code below to access the online form.