Disclaimer: Current student liaison Dhruvak Mirani is a former Diamondback opinion columnist.

A pilot program could soon grant 150 University of Maryland undergraduate students a $1,500 rental subsidy for off-campus apartments, according to a presentation at the College Park City Council meeting on Tuesday.

In the presentation, District 3 council member Stuart Adams and city council student liaison Dhruvak Mirani emphasized the importance of investing in affordable housing and explained the program’s eligibility criteria and selection process.

“This is an opportunity for the city to step up in a fiscally responsible way to support our residents,” Adams said.

The funding for the pilot program comes from the 3 cent increase in taxes on commercial, apartment and industrial properties that was approved and implemented as part of the city’s fiscal budget for 2024. Grant money in the pilot program could amount to a maximum of $225,000, according to the presentation.

College Park Mayor Fazlul Kabir formed a subcommittee to create the pilot program during a council meeting in July. The subcommittee is chaired by Adams and includes College Park student liaisons, one council member from each district, the mayor, the city manager and other city staff.

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Adams said that this university’s Student Government Association has been heavily involved with the development of the pilot program. However, District 1 council member Jacob Hernandez said he is worried about the lack of collaboration between the city and university administration on the project.

Some of his constituents are concerned about the lack of official university representation on the subcommittee, Hernandez said.

“[The city’s] trying to really build the partnership we have with the university,” he said.

Hernandez is also worried about choosing candidates with the program’s potential lottery selection process.

The pilot program will likely use a lottery selection process that would select 150 eligible applicants at random, according to Mirani.

“We’re going to have well over 150 applicants,” Hernandez said. “And it’s going to be really difficult to parse through [them] given the current eligibility requirements.”

To be eligible for the pilot program recipients must be full-time undergraduate students at the University of Maryland for the 2024 fall semester, qualify for a Federal Pell Grant during the 2023-24 academic year, have proof of a signed lease at an eligible apartment and have a minimum GPA of 2.0. Students must also be willing to participate in surveys and data collection for evaluation of the pilot program.

District 2 council member Susan Whitney expressed concerns that the program would encourage students to choose more expensive apartment housing instead of less expensive neighborhood housing.

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“We [may be] encouraging students to live in a nicer place, but essentially at the end of the day spend more money,” Whitney said.

The $1,500 subsidy amount was determined by data from 12 student apartment buildings in College Park, which showed the median rent price for a one bedroom apartment in a four-bedroom shared apartment is $1,245 per month. The subcommittee hopes the grant program will cover around one month’s worth of rent for each recipient, Mirani said.

In the future, Adams hopes to possibly expand the program to include graduate students and other non-student residents of College Park.

“This is a framework to help with affordable housing for folks that are unable to purchase a home,” Adams said. “We do believe this can create a template for non-students in future years.”

District 3 council member John Rigg said he believes the program will have positive impacts for students. Rigg said he hopes the program will support students, which make up a large portion of College Park residents.

The council plans to hold a town hall next month to further discuss the pilot program before a vote is scheduled.

If funding for the pilot program is approved by the council, Adams said online applications for the program will hopefully be released in April and the grant money will be distributed to recipients in May and June.