Housing prices have skyrocketed in different areas. As a result, many American families fell into a tight spot spending too much on housing. Families should not spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs if they want to have affordable housing. However, there is a solution to this issue.
In the U.S., there are a number of aid programs available to help with housing costs. Non-federal and federal sources of help are both opportunities that you can consider. Many people prefer federal aid. Unfortunately, some people get confused when it comes to finding the aid they seek. You do not need to deal with that stress on your own. Understanding housing assistance may be less complicated than you think.
Understanding Different Housing Assistance Options
Although cities, localities, and counties play essential roles in the affordable housing funding process, the federal government provides the bulk of financial support for affordable housing programs.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program
The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program is often referred to as Section 8. Both terms refer to the same federal housing assistance program which has been offering assistance to low-income renters since 1974. Although the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds this program, local public housing authorities (PHAs) manage it.
The HCV program, as the name implies, provides low-income families and individuals with vouchers that they can use to pay rent. In fact, the voucher lets you choose a rental from the private market. This means you do not necessarily need to stay in government housing in order to use this voucher. However, the unit you pick must meet certain housing quality standards (HQS).
Who is Eligible?
There are four major elements that determine whether you are eligible for HCV assistance including your family’s status and total income, your citizenship status, and your eviction history.
In order for the program to accept you, you must meet all of the requirements. There may be some exceptions to each condition. However, you must ensure that your situation meets as many of the basic requirements as possible.
Extremely low-income people are top priority. Individuals or households with a gross annual income that is 70% less than the median local income are eligible. However, there may be additional circumstances that allow you to qualify and receive your voucher sooner than others. Here are a few examples:
- Being a homeless person
- Currently residing at a shelter
- Having a child
- Working more than 42 hours every week
- Dealing with a disability
- Being 62 or older
Once you have received your voucher, there is no time limit on how long you can stay. You can keep the voucher as long as you qualify for the program, even if you move to another qualifying rental.
Public Housing is another helpful housing program where the federal government provides several types of rentals such as apartments, single family homes, etc. Just like HCV, this program is funded by the HUD, but it is managed by local housing agencies (HAs). Which means, you must meet your local HA eligibility requirements in order to get Public Housing aid.
After signing the lease, it is very similar to moving into any unit of a typical landlord. According to HUD, around 1.2 million people live in Public Housing units. This demonstrates how beneficial and efficient this program is.
The Eligibility Requirements
Public Housing aims to help low-income families and individuals get an appropriate place to stay. That is why your local PHA decides your eligibility based on the following factors:
- Your annual income: which should not exceed a particular limit set by each PHA, which may change from one area to the next.
- Whether you are a senior, a family, or a disabled individual.
- Your citizenship or immigration status in the United States.
If your HA determines that you are eligible, they will check your references to guarantee that you and your family will be decent renters. HAs consistently reject applications from those who have unhealthy habits or engage in dangerous activities.
It is important to keep in mind that the number of available housing units is limited. As a result, there are often significant waitlists before a unit becomes available for a new tenant. For this reason, it is common to wait for a while before moving into your new home. In general, you can stay in public housing as long as you meet the terms of your lease. However, remember that if your family’s income is enough to afford housing in the private market, the HA may reconsider your stay during the yearly re-examination.
How Much Rent Should a Tenant Pay in Public Housing?
Under the Public Housing Program, rent is referred to as the Total Tenant Payment (TTP). It would be calculated using your family’s estimated total annual income, excluding any deductions. The HA representative may eliminate various allowances from your annual income depending on your application.
These allowances include $480 for each dependent, $400 for senior families or individuals with disabilities, and some medical deductions for households led by a senior person or a person with a disability, according to the official HUD website.
Privately Owned Subsidized Housing
Waiting for a unit to be available is boring and maybe a waste of time, right? In that case, you should consider privately owned subsidized housing. This type of housing assistance is different from the federal assistance because this time the dwellings belong to private landlords and property management companies.
In order to qualify for tax credits, these properties have to provide a number of units at a lower rate to eligible residents. People call these properties “mixed-income housing” since they have both regular tenants and assisted tenants.
Supportive housing is a very effective method that combines inexpensive housing with extensive coordinated services to assist people in need. It focuses on those experiencing chronic physical and mental health challenges and helps them maintain stable housing and receive adequate health care.
There are different types of supportive housing that you may find, yet these are the most popular:
- Emergency Shelters
- Transitional Shelters
- Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)
- Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
This should be one of the first places a family or an individual turns to when dealing with a tragedy. Emergency shelters provide needy people with support services to assist them to achieve short-term stability. Each shelter sets its rules and determines how long a person may stay. However, one of the objectives of emergency shelters is to help people in need locate housing that meets their long-term needs.
With transitional shelters, people get a longer-term temporary housing option. Typically, folks stay in this type of housing for 6 to 24 months. It basically aims to offer assistance to homeless people. One of the best aspects of these shelters is that they frequently include supportive services that can help people personally, professionally, and in other ways.
Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)
When people are in desperate need of housing, this is an excellent option to consider. This is due to the fact that this type of housing assistance opportunity is a “housing first solution.” It is intended to assist folks who do not regularly deal with homelessness (known as non-chronic homelessness). People who receive this assistance will be able to rent their own apartments at an affordable rate while receiving temporary community support services. The goal is to get a person or family out of a homeless situation as soon as possible.
Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
PSH is a program that can assist people who were formerly chronically homeless. The HUD classifies someone as chronically homeless if they are a homeless person who resides in one of the following areas:
- Places unfit for human habitation: for at least 12 months, or at least four different times over the course of three years, with a total length of 12 months.
- Safe Havens: for at least 12 months, or at least four separate occasions over three years, with a total length of 12 months.
- Emergency Shelters: for at least 12 months, or at least four separate times over the course of three years, with a total length of 12 months.
- Institutional Care Facilities: for less than 90 days and previously resided in any of the options indicated above.
Just like RRH, PSH is a form of “housing first solution” as well. It focuses on recovery while seeking to get people into independent/permanent living as quickly as possible while still offering supportive assistance.
In conclusion, housing is a challenging expense for many people to deal with, those with low incomes in particular. If you are (or know someone who is) struggling to keep up with housing payments, it is critical to know that assistance is available. You can choose between many different options like Public Housing, the Housing Choice Voucher Program, Supportive Housing, and more. All you have to do is to contact your local PHA to discuss the available options and determine your eligibility.