During the ongoing pandemic, many households, families, and individuals have been facing an unprecedented economic impact that has affected not only their standard of living but also their ability to pay their rents regularly.
The federal government acknowledges these issues, which is why they hope programs can help. There are programs for those who qualify that can act as a lifeline. These programs mainly focus on helping individuals and families with the rent issue.
Let’s take a look at all the options offered by the federal government. We’ll also discuss how you can apply for them, eligibility requirements, and more!
Which Housing Assistance Programs Should I Apply For?
The Housing Assistance Programs we’re about to discuss were all created by the federal government. However, even though they are federal programs, they’re all under the supervision of state governments. That means not only are all qualification conditions different within every state, but also the type of benefits you can receive in each state will probably be different.
The main idea is to know which Housing Assistance program to apply for. Since the application process will often be lengthy and require many documents to gather, you don’t want to waste time and effort applying for the wrong program, especially if you’re going through a housing crisis. That way you can also avoid taking someone else’s spot while you wouldn’t even benefit from it.
Types of Housing Assistance Programs You Can Apply For
Section 8 housing, also known as Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV):
This housing assistance program focuses on supplying eligible candidates with vouchers that give them access to governmental assistance with their rental fees. Besides providing evidence of eligibility for this housing assistance program, a candidate must also search for homes that accept these vouchers.
To determine the amount each eligible candidate can receive in rental assistance, applicants must meet the following conditions:
- Meeting your local city/state’s low-income requirements
- Have a qualifying US citizenship or valid immigration papers
- Pass a criminal background check
It is important to note however that the application process for section 8 homes can take a while. Furthermore, the processing of your papers will probably take a long time, unless you live in a rural area with low demand for section 8 housing. On the bright side, recipients of Housing Choice Vouchers may use these vouchers in any state or city across the nation after receiving them (with approval from their local public housing authority).
A branch of the Section 8 housing program is Single Room Occupancy (SRO), which as described by the National Coalition for the Homeless is a “program [that] provides funding to moderately rehabilitate existing structures to create SRO housing for homeless individuals of very low income. A typical SRO structure is a residential building with small private rooms for a single individual. Shared space typically includes bathrooms, kitchens, living spaces, laundry rooms, and occasionally meeting rooms.”
Public Housing is a series of housing projects, built under the regulation of the federal government, supervised by local state governments. The idea is to provide subsidized housing for low-income families and individuals. Much like Section 8 homes, Public Housing applicants must provide citizenship/residence papers, as well as proof of meeting the local low-income criteria. However, Public Housing applicants must meet with their local Public Housing Authority (PHA) in person. Which in turn removes any possibility to apply for it online, or over the phone. Contact your local PHA, find the nearest office, and drop by to inquire about your eligibility and how to start the application.
The way Public Housing is run is described by Congress in their report. “PHAs receive several streams of funding from HUD to help make up the difference between what tenants pay in rent and what it costs to maintain public housing. PHAs receive operating funds and capital funds through a formula allocation process; operating funds are used for management, administration, and the day-to-day costs of running a housing development, and capital funds are used for modernization needs (such as replacing a roof or heating and cooling system or reconfiguring units).”
Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA)
This program was created by the Department of Treasury. The idea is to help out renters with bills, including rental fees, utilities, and internet fees. Just like any of the previously mentioned programs, there is a set of qualifications and eligibility clauses that applicants must make sure they meet. As expected, the criteria to qualify for this Housing Assistance Program include providing evidence of low-income and/or qualification for unemployment. But it also requires applicants to provide evidence of a potentially unstable housing situation, should ERA not offer their help.
Emergency Rental Assistance not only helps tenants out with rent but can also help with other fees, such as internet subscriptions and even moving-out fees. However, applicants should pay attention to the fact that this program is for RENTERS ONLY, meaning that if a person owns a house, this program will not be able to help out with mortgage or any other related fees.
One big perk of this Housing Assistance Program is that as of May 7th, 2021, landlords who accept direct payment from the government through ERA are not allowed to evict the tenants tied to the agreement.
Privately-owned subsidized housing
As explained by the Department of Housing and Urban (HUD) development, this type of “housing assistance fall(s) under a collection of programs created during the last four decades. What these programs have in common is that they provide rental housing that is owned by private landlords who enter into contracts with HUD in order to receive housing subsidies. The subsidies pay the difference between tenant rent and total rental costs. The subsidy arrangement is termed project-based because the assisted household may not take the subsidy and move to another location.”
To put it simply, private landlords own the houses for this affordable housing option. These landlords sign a deal with the federal/state government to provide subsidized rental units to low-income families and individuals, while the government would compensate them by paying for the rest of the market-valued rental fees.
This option comes with a few caveats. Starting with finding these homes, as landlords would usually prefer to get rents directly from tenants instead of jumping through legal hoops to make somewhat the same amount, it’s understandable that privately-owned subsidized housing is not exactly abundantly available.
The second caveat, as mentioned above, is that if the tenant decides to leave the unit, the deal would be over. Meaning that the government will not provide rental assistance for different housing, unless the tenant applies again from the very beginning, of course.
Finally, landlords must make sure that the homes they intend to rent out are up to code. They also need to maintain certain safety and functionality qualifications. The local PHA will enforce these standards.
Housing Assistance Programs for People With Special Needs
Section 811 Supportive Housing For Persons With Disabilities Program
This is a program created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help low-income families. Families must include at least one member who struggles with physical and/or mental disabilities. Qualifying families can benefit from rent assistance. This program can help those that meet certain qualifying criteria:
- The family must include at least one member with a disability. A disability, in this case, can be physical, developmental, or mental.
- The family’s median income must not be more than 50% of their local state’s median income. (Subject to change according to different PHAs)
- The family must pay 30% of their income towards rent, and the program will cover the rest.
The program also comes with other perks. One perk is that Section 811 Supportive Housing For Persons With Disabilities Program can provide tenants with 5-year contracts that are subject to renewal. Another perk is that, this program also comes with different disability-assistance programs.
Section 202 Supportive Housing For The Elderly Program
This Housing Assistance program created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It aims to provide elderly individuals with financial support. This program can do his by helping low-income elderly (62 years old or above) with getting an affordable rent. Moreover, the program focuses on enabling low-income elderly to live independently but in an environment that provides support activities such as cleaning, cooking, transportation, etc.
To qualify for this program, applicants must meet the following terms:
- Applicant must be a US citizen or a qualifying immigrant
- Individuals must be 62 years of age or above. Applicants can also be a family with at least one member who is 62 years old or above
- Applicant(s) must be of very-low income
The government is doing their best to provide assistance to Americans in need. That’s why they have programs that aim to help US citizens and qualifying immigrants find ways get affordable housing.
Those who plan to apply for Housing Assistance Programs should confirm their eligibility. Application processes for Housing Assistance programs are often lengthy and typically have long waiting times.
To give you a rundown, let’s go through your options quickly once more. Section 8 Housing/Housing Choice Vouchers are vouchers that can help eligible candidates. These vouchers can help them find affordable housing through assisting with rent.
Public housing is a series of housing projects. These projects were created by the federal government to provide eligible tenants to get affordable housing. Even though this is a federal option, local state governments regulate the housing to ensure it’s up to code.
Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) is a program created by the Department of Treasury. This can help eligible applicants with paying their rents. Assistance through this program can cover overdue rents, utility bills, and internet bills, as well as moving fees.
Privately-owned subsidized housing is a program tied with private landlords that sign an agreement with the government. The deal entails that tenants will pay a certain percentage of their rental fees. The government would cover the rest.
The most important thing for applicants is to decide on which programs they qualify for and need. You will need to prepare the correct documents, and inquire at your local Public Housing Authority (PHA). You may especially benefit from dropping by in person for either questions or applications. This can help make sure you don’t miss out on your opportunity for Housing Assistance Programs.