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How to Find Low Income Housing in 7 Easy Steps

How to Find Low Income Housing in 7 Easy Steps

Wondering how to find low income housing? You’re not alone. There is a low income housing crisis in America – but the good news is that we have found a few ways that you may be able to find low income housing in your area. 

Low Income Housing is a difficult topic right now. Housing prices are skyrocketing and our country does not have enough low income housing to go around. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has reported that there is NO state or county where a renter who is working full-time at minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment. In most areas, the rent for a one-bedroom apartment is also unattainable. 

This is clearly a huge problem. 

But please don’t lose hope! 

In this article, we’re going to address some strategies to help you find low income housing and some resources that may be able to help you even if you’re not able to get the housing that you need. 

Option 1: Find Subsidized Housing

When most people refer to low income housing, they usually mean subsidized housing. With subsidized housing, the government gives the property owner money to provide low-rent housing to low income people. In order to rent subsidized housing, you must be within the set income limit for your family size and location, and you may have to meet other requirements set by the property owner as well. 

The easiest way to find subsidized housing is by using the search tool at resources.hud.gov to see where the subsidized housing is in your area. The database includes contact information and a list of units at each property, but it does not include vacancies. From there, you’ll need to reach out to each provider about availability. 

Option 2: Housing Choice Vouchers

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program creates its own type of subsidized housing. In this case, the government doesn’t make an arrangement with the property owner directly. Instead, you will be provided a voucher that proves the government will help pay part of your rent.  The amount that they will pay depends on your income, family composition, and local housing costs.

When you are approved for Section 8, you will have to find a landlord willing to accept your Housing Voucher. The voucher can be used for apartments, townhomes, or single family homes. In some areas, you can even use Section 8 vouchers to purchase a home!

While it is true that Section 8 often has a long wait list, there are some things you need to know about how it works. We have another post where I explain this in detail, but basically the wait list isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Some people get priority preference and can skip ahead – especially if they are homeless, living in dangerous housing, paying more than 50% of their income for rent, or involuntarily displaced.

To apply for Section 8 Housing Vouchers, you will need to contact your local Public Housing Authority. To find rentals that accept Section 8 in your area, rental search providers like Zumper and Trulia allow you to filter results by properties willing to accept Section 8.

Option 3: Public Housing

With Public Housing, you’ll rent directly from your local Public Housing Authority. There are 3,300 PHAs that manage approximately 1.2 million public housing units. These units come in all shapes and sizes, from single family homes to high-rise apartments. Public housing is set aside for low income people, the elderly and people with disabilities. 

For more information about public housing in your area, you should contact your local Public Housing Authority. In my search for information about this, I found that PHAs often visit your current home to interview your family members and evaluate how well you maintain your current home. Just a heads up. 

Option 4: Housing for Seniors

Seniors face special challenges in finding affordable housing. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development found that nearly one third of households led by someone age 62 or older were struggling with affordable housing. And that was back in 2003! The problem has definitely not gotten better with time. 

Fortunately, there are several agencies and organizations that help seniors find affordable housing in their communities. If you are an older adult and you’re wondering how to find low income housing, try these sources: 

  • Call Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116. 
  • Search for Continuing Care Retirement Communities at seniorliving.org/directory/
  • Look for senior co-housing opportunities at cohousing.org/directory
  • Contact your local Area Agency on Aging. I know we’ve been talking a lot about these agencies lately, but they really are very helpful for low income seniors. 

Option 5: Rural Housing Options

The United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, subsidizes over 15,000 rural multi-family apartment complexes across the United States. Some of these units are for families and some are exclusively for the elderly. The apartments range from studios to 4 bedroom units. The USDA also provides rental assistance and even rent vouchers to certain people who qualify. 

To find more about these USDA rentals, you’ll need to visit their website. It’s a ridiculously long and complicated URL, so I’m not even going to try to repeat it here. Just click over to LowIncomeRelief.com/housing and select the USDA link. That’ll take you right to their search page so you can find the list for your area. 

Option 6: The VASH Program

Low income, homeless veterans who are eligible for VA health care may be eligible for the HUD-VASH program. This program provides permanent supportive housing for eligible homeless veterans, including those with families. The program focuses on veterans who do not have a safe, consistent place to sleep at night and also have physical or mental health challenges, substance abuse disorders, and lack of social support. 

For more information about the HUD-VASH Program, you will need to contact your local VA Homeless Program. You can do this in one of three ways. You can call 1-877-4AID-VET, you can use the online chat at va.gov, or you can call your local VA Medical Center and ask to speak to a Homeless Coordinator. 

Option 7: Get creative. 

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has stated that the United States has a shortage of 6.8 million affordable rental homes. On average, there are only 37 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low income households who need them. It’s pretty bad out there. 

To find low income housing in your area, be creative. Don’t just scroll through the same search pages that everyone else is looking through. Contact the agencies in your area that are likely to know about low income resources – places like the Community Action Council, Area Agency on Aging, Department of Social Services, and other nonprofits or government agencies. Talk to social workers and caseworkers. Ask around and you may find things that nobody else knows about yet.

Of course, if these options don’t work for you, then you may need to get creative to solve your housing problem. This could look like living with friends or family members. It could look like living in a low-cost hotel or an RV for a while. You can also check this directory for more housing resources.

Just remember…

It’s hard to figure out how to find low income housing in America right now because there is not enough supply to meet the demand. However, there are several agencies that can help you locate low income housing your area, but you will need to reach out to each of them for more information.

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