The deadline for vacating her efficiency apartment in Adams-Morgan was only a week away, and Maria Gomez had spent yet another frustrating day walking from apartment building to apartment building hoping to find a place where she and her family could live.

Constrained by what they could afford on her husband's small salary as a kitchen helper in a District restaurant, Gomez felt that her housing prospects on that chilly day in December were bleak.

Many landlords had turned her away when they discovered that two adults and three children, ages 18 months, 3 years and 4 years, would be sharing a one-bedroom apartment.

"I came home that afternoon and gathered my children around me," Gomez recalled yesterday, cradling her head in her hands and sobbing quietly. "I remember saying, 'God, please show me what to do.' "

Yesterday, the uncertainty that had surrounded Gomez's life was gone as she bounced her daughter on her lap in the living room of her new, spacious Mount Pleasant apartment. She was in a living arrangement made possible by a District housing program for poor and moderate-income residents.

The apartment building, at 1436 Meridian Place NW, which a year ago was an abandoned shell with boarded-up windows and peeling paint, was the scene yesterday of a festive ribbon-cutting, attended by top District officials and celebrated with wine and caviar.

The owners of the building, Marilyn and Bob DeLuca, are among 300 landlords in the District participating in the Tenant Assistance Program. Under the program, tenants pay a certain percentage of the rent based on income and the District government pays the remainder.

The program is a way that the District government is trying to resolve the problems facing many low- to moderate-income residents who increasingly are having trouble obtaining adequate housing as gentrification of some inner-city neighborhoods such as Adams-Morgan and Mount Pleasant pushes rents upward.

In the past, District officials have been hard-pressed to find landlords willing to accept Tenant Assistance Program certificates from renters. But officials said yesterday they are encouraged by a separate program that provides a strong incentive for property owners to renovate decrepit buildings and rent some of the units to renters in the Tenant Assistance Program.

The District will lift tax liens pending against a property if the owner agrees to set aside at least 15 percent of the apartment units for Tenant Assistance Program tenants.

In the case of the DeLucas' building, $283,000 in tax liens was lifted, and about two dozen of the building's 58 units have been reserved for program tenants. The apartments normally rent for $595 to $895 a month.

"What we're hoping to prove is that {Tenant Assistance Program} tenants aren't the bubonic plague," said Marilyn DeLuca, who added that she and her husband have renovated three other buildings that participate in the program.

Alphonzo Jackson, acting director of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, which oversees the tenant program, said 3,500 District residents are participating in it and 6,500 are on the waiting list.

The District government has set aside $13 million for the project, of which $5 million has been spent and $3 million is to be spent this year, Jackson said.

While District officials recited facts and figures, Gomez, 28, who was born in Ecuador, was concentrating on the more simple things of life yesterday -- her new washer and dryer, stored in a linen closet next to the kitchen, which includes a dishwasher and garbage disposal.

Her apartment is still sparsely furnished, but she said life could not be better.

In March, she begins a new job as a teacher's assistant in a day care center in the basement of her apartment building, a few steps from her door. Her children will attend the center.

Gomez said she is particularly grateful to Arlene Gillespie, the director of the D.C. Office of Latino Affairs, who referred her to the Tenant Assistance Program and had helped her several years ago when she was hospitalized after ceiling plaster fell on her head.

"I'm so happy now because my children have a place to play and a place to sleep," she said.