As more and more people are finding themselves in poverty, many are turning to affordable housing programs to break the cycle. Roughly 46 million Americans live in poverty according to the Monroe Group. However, even though 46 million Americans are in poverty, only 10 million people receive federal rental assistance. That being said, many people don’t know where to begin with section 8 and how to even qualify. Luckily if you keep reading you will find out how to qualify for affordable housing programs and how to give yourself the best chances at receiving assistance sooner rather than later.
Types of Low-Income Housing
While there are many different types of affordable housing programs, the two main ones are called public housing and section 8 housing. Even though both of these programs aim to provide affordable housing to tenants, they do so in different ways. That is why you should know the difference before you submit your application so you can have a clear understanding of the assistance that you will be receiving. Both of these programs are overseen and funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. However, even though funding comes from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, your local public housing authority is actually who you will be working with. They are the ones that handles applications, approvals, inspections of housing units, and more. The public housing program is a program that provides lowered rent in order for it to be affordable.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development indicates that affordable housing is when a tenant does not spend over 30% of their income towards housing. Anything past 30% makes them considered to be cost-burdened. An example of what public housing rent would look like is if your income is $1,000 a month then you would not be responsible for anything more than $300 in housing costs. Sadly, when many people think of public housing, they have a bad image of an unsafe and unsanitary environment. However, that is actually not the case. There are both federal and local standards that each housing unit must meet in order to comply with the law. If these units do not meet the standards, then tenants are not able to live in them. Regardless of the fact that section 8 is similar with their mission to provide affordable housing, they do it a different way. The section 8 assistance program provides eligible tenants housing vouchers (also known as housing subsidies) in order to cover the cost difference in rent. Unlike public housing which has designated housing units that are federally funded, section 8 vouchers can be used anywhere that section 8 vouchers are accepted. Regardless if it’s a house, a town home, an apartment, etc., any landlord or property manager that accepts vouchers can have recipients live there. Just like public housing, section 8 recipients will not need to spend more than 30% of their income towards housing expenses. However, the amount that the local public housing authority will cover with their voucher varies. A voucher can cover up to 70% of the cost difference of rent! Once you are approved for section 8 assistance and you have received your voucher, you will need to find a place to live. After finding a housing unit that accepts vouchers, you will need to have an inspector from your local public housing authority to ensure that the
unit meets both federal and local standards of cleanliness and safety. Only then will you be able to move into your place.
Income Limits are Location Specific
The Department of Housing and Urban Development makes low-income units available to households with an annual income that ranges from 30-80% below the area’s median annual income. Households can be categorized from “low income” which is 30% below the median income, “very low income” which is 50% below the median income, and “extremely low income” which is 80% below the media income. Typically, families that are classified in any of these three categories with corresponding income levels, they are eligible for a public housing unit. There are also factors that affect what your actual income is.
A person who is “very low income” and is just 1 person can technically make more than a person who is just considered “low income” if that “low income” tenant has children. If a person who is just “low income’ but has four kids then that income is split up between five people versus the one person who is “very low income.” When looking at section 8 housing, the household income cannot surpass 50% of the area’s median income.The lower your income then the higher chance you have to receive housing.
Besides being in the right income bracket, you will need to provide other important information about the demographic of your family. Economics and demographic information like assets, citizenship status, family size, etc., will need to be provided about your family. Not every public housing authority will have the same requirements in regard to what is needed in order to be eligible and approved for assistance. The best way that you can find out that information is by contacting your local public housing authority of the area you are looking to live in. You can also check online to see if there is any information available. You need to make sure that you are upfront and honest about all information that you provide to the public housing authority when you apply. If you are caught being fraudulent then you run the risk of losing your opportunity for assistance for a set period of time or even forever.
Be Prepared for a Wait
Since there are so many people in poverty and not enough affordable housing opportunities, wait lists can get very long. There is currently an affordable housing crisis due to the high demand and lack of supply that people face. Very rarely will you immediately receive assistance after your application is approved. Wait lists can be as long as a few months to even a couple years long. Some are even closed indefinitely. Since wait lists can be so extensive, it is a good idea to see what your other options are. If you are able to be flexible with the area you live in, then you will want to see if moving to other areas with shorter wait lists is an option. You can apply to any amount of public housing authorities that you want, you have no restriction. Even if you get denied at another public housing authority, you will not have your place in line affected with the one you were approved at. You can also verify that with your local public housing authority.