The Howard County Housing department will start accepting applications for the county's Moderate Income Housing Unit program on Thursday, Jan. 2. The January open enrollment period for the program will end Friday, Jan. 31.

The MIHU program requires housing developers to sell or rent a percentage of new units to moderate-income households.

To offer more information on the MIHU program, the Housing department will also host a free "MIHU Buyers and Renters Workshop" on Tuesday, Jan. 14 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Gateway Building in Columbia. The workshop will offer information on the program's eligibility requirements and application process. Credit experts will also be available to present information about the importance of credit scores when buying or renting a home.

To be eligible to purchase an MIHU home, prospective buyers must have an income that doesn't exceed 80 percent of Howard County's median income, which is $108,844 for a family of four, as of Jan. 1. Applicants must also meet minimum credit score requirements and their household income must be enough to qualify for a home mortgage based on industry standards.

Available MIHU purchasing opportunities are in Dorset Gardens, Gatherings at Ellicott Mills, Howard Square and Shipley's Grant.

To be eligible to rent an MIHU unit, prospective renters may not make more than 60 percenet of Howard County's median income. MIHUs are rented on a first-come, first-served basis, with rents ranging from $1,224 to $1,698, including utilities.

Facilities currently accepting rental applications are in Alta at Regency Crest, Ashbury Courts, Belmont Station, Mission Place, Orchard Meadows and Penniman Park.

Open enrollment periods for the MIHU program are held quarterly. For more information, call 410-313-6318 or visit howardcountymd.gov/housingmihu.htm.