Unfortunately, some people cannot manage the necessary costs of housing each month. If you find it a challenge to handle your housing costs (rent and utilities), then you are not the only one. But, there might be more support than you think! This is because when individuals want to begin their journey towards affordable housing, there are available options that can help them.
First Thing’s First: Understanding Your Budget
While you might be eager to look through different options that might help you receive affordable housing, you cannot take advantage of them just yet if you don’t know what affordable housing means for your budget. The federal government defines affordable housing for you! Affordable housing is when an individual or family spends no more than 30% of their monthly gross income according to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
If you want more context, let us give you an example. Let us say that you earn $15 per hour at 40 hours a week at a factory job. This means that you earn $2,400 per month before taxes. If you were to reach affordable housing, then your housing costs would not exceed $720. That is hard to reach, especially since the average expense of a one-bedroom apartment in America is $1,701 (as of July 2022).
When families spend more than 30% of their income on housing, they can find that they are cost-burdened. Unfortunately, families that are cost-burdened can find it a challenge to manage other expenses that could include groceries, healthcare, transportation, and so on. That is why it is important to work on reaching affordable housing as soon as you can.
Steps to Begin Towards Affordable Housing
Once you take the time to understand what affordable housing means for your finances, you can start your journey towards achieving it. There are several places where you can begin to find out where support is available. These three options include:
Your Local Public Housing Authority (PHA)
One of the first options to begin is at your local PHA. Local PHAs are the agencies responsible for administering and managing some HUD assistance options. They will have a wide range of information on housing support, the application process, and more! One of the benefits that come with local PHAs is the information they offer. Plus, their applications are completely free! This means that people will get guidance and not pay a penny for it!
While your local PHA is a great source to start with, that is not the only option available out there. Another resource that would be good for you is the federal website benefits.gov. This website has information on more than 1,000 different support options available from the government. Since there is much information on benefits.gov they have specific tools that can make it easier for users to navigate through the website.
Users will be able to make the most out of the Benefit Finder tool. This tool offers individuals the opportunity to fill in details about their specific situation. These details include their family size, income level, and so on. Once an individual fills out these details, the tool finds different support options that could possibly help the current situation of the individual. The only way that you can truly find out whether you are eligible for a support option or not is by submitting an application. But, the programs that the tool shows you will probably suit your current situation. Benefits.gov will also offer information on where people will need to apply and any contact information they might need if it is applicable.
Search by the Agency or Category
While the Benefit Finder tool is a great option, there are some people who might not be comfortable with offering their personal details online. For individuals that do not want to offer personal information, they can look for available options by agency or category. For instance, if an individual knows that they want to find housing support, then they can look for available options from the HUD or options under Housing and Public Utilities.
Another great resource to begin your journey to affordable housing is at 211.org. This is a website that offers local assistance resources to those who use it. While this website offers a lot of information about different assistance options, they provide help to people who need affordable housing. There are many individuals who do not even know that this opportunity exists. This website was able to offer millions of connections that helped decrease or avoid housing insecurity/homelessness to the people who reached out.
If you are wondering about the type of housing assistance opportunities that your local 211 can offer, then there is more than you think. Your local 211 can assist in finding support options that will help you manage your housing costs. This could include rent, mortgage payments, utilities, and so on. If you plan on getting in touch with your local 211, then you should expect to offer personal details about your current situation. This includes your income, housing situation, and more. These details will make it easier for your local 211 to offer a more customized experience for you.
Available Affordable Housing Opportunities
Now that you know about three resources to help you with information or housing support, you should consider specific affordable housing programs that could help your living situation. Some of these programs include:
Other than these programs that can help you with affordable housing specifically, there are also other federal programs that you should think about. Other programs that can provide relief in other aspects of your life will give you a better chance of handling your financial situation. As an example, through SNAP, you will receive food assistance per month worth $350. This means that you have $350 in your budget that you are not using for groceries. You can use it for housing instead! Other federal programs that can help you out include:
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Lifeline Program
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Social Security Disability Insurance Program (SSDI)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
The Final Verdict
When you find yourself needing affordable housing, you might feel like there is no support available to help you, but that is not true! There are many resources to consider. Affordable housing means not spending more than 30% of your monthly gross income according to the HUD definition. That amount of money can vary for everyone based on how much they earn. If you are thinking about starting your journey towards affordable housing, then the best places to start include:
- Your Local Public Housing Authority (PHA)
Other than the resources mentioned above, there are specific affordable housing programs to remember, which include:
- Housing Choice Voucher Program
- Public Housing
- Supportive Housing
Other than resources and programs, you can also gain from other federal assistance options that have nothing to do with housing. They can offer some financial relief, nonetheless!