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With a wide array of services and many important factors to consider, we understand that finding low-income housing for seniors can be a challenge.
But rest assured: If you’re a senior or have an elderly loved one, there are a variety of options to find and secure low-income housing for seniors that can help older folks on a fixed income.
In this article, we’ll discuss low-income housing for seniors, how to find them, red flags to look out for, the options that exist, and what info you’ll need to secure an affordable, senior-friendly home.
Determine your search criteria
To start, you need to establish two important factors: your budget and where you’d like to live.
If you haven’t already, we suggest you create a budget to determine how much you’re able to pay for housing per month. Check out this helpful guide from Low Income Relief on 5 steps to make a budget.
Once you’ve figured out your housing budget, it’s next time to determine where you’d like to live, including housing type and the city or state. We’ll discuss specific housing options in greater detail below, but some of the options include public housing, co-op housing, virtual retirement communities, the Housing Choice Voucher Program, and Section 202 housing.
Set your priorities
Consider what you’d like from your home, new community, and the area’s amenities.
Perhaps you’d like a park or walking area nearby, an active church community, a nearby grocery store, or a social group in which to make friends. You might also have requirements such as senior transportation or ADA-compliant facilities. Take a moment to consider your housing priorities and keep those in mind as you search.
Research Low-Income Housing for Seniors
Research your options and preferences with trustworthy sources such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD as it’s commonly referred to. It’s also worth contacting your city or county’s housing authority. You can find your local housing authority here. Ask your local housing authority for information on options in your area that offer seniors affordable housing. If you’re considering a few different cities or counties, contact each of their housing authorities to determine some of your prices and options.
AARP also created the Future of Housing program that provides information on the senior housing crisis as well as tools to help seniors and their families find and secure low-income housing. To find specific housing options in your area, SeniorHousing.net and After55.com offer tools to search by city, state, and zip code.
Determine your location
Understand that finding and securing senior housing can take some significant time. If you’re able to be flexible, you’ll have a wider array of options. Typically, larger cities will have more options for low-income senior housing. Smaller towns often have a limited supply of senior housing options, thus making them more challenging to secure.
West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Iowa, Alabama and Kansas offer some of the lowest property prices in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Look for warning signs
Unfortunately, many seniors are preyed upon by people and companies hoping to exploit them. If something doesn’t feel right, seek counsel with your local housing authority, and a trusted friend or family member. Explain the situation and what you’re concerned about.
As you’re evaluating a location, research reviews of the facility, talk with current residents, ask about any associated fees, and tour the community or neighborhood and the home or apartment. Extra fees may include pet fees, laundry services, exercise facilities, parking, and more. Ask any questions and voice any concerns you have before signing a lease agreement.
Options for Low-Income Housing for Seniors
As we mentioned above, there are a wide array of options for low-income housing for seniors. What options you can access will depend on many factors, including your income, location, and your area’s options. Let’s take a look at each housing type and how you might access them.
Public housing is government-subsidized housing that’s managed by your city or county’s housing authority. Seniors comprise about a third of people in public housing. Typically, public housing options include apartments or large communities. To access public housing, you must have a low income and spend roughly 30 percent of your income on housing costs like rent and utilities.
Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly
HUD created the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program to help any very low-income household comprised of at least one person who is at least 62 years old at the time of initial occupancy.
The program also provides capital to finance the construction, rehabilitation, or acquisition of properties to serve as housing for low-income elderly people. The housing types and amenities offered by Section 202 will vary but can include senior transportation, meals, housekeeping, counseling services, and other senior-focused amenities.
Virtual Retirement Communities
The goal of virtual retirement communities is to keep people in their homes longer. Instead of a physical location, a virtual retirement community is a group of people that agree to support one another and build community.
In these options, you can contribute and receive services that support the community, such as transportation, meals, chores, and activities. Virtual retirement communities can be more affordable options that allow a senior to remain in their homes.
Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)
The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is a program managed by HUD that offers a tax incentive for developers to construct or rehabilitate affordable rental housing for low-income households. While it is not specifically oriented toward seniors, the program has created many thousands of affordable options for low-income elderly people.
HUD offers a search tool to find a property. To access this option, you will apply directly with the senior housing community. It’s also worth reaching out to your city or county’s housing authority for more information on how to find a LIHTC rental.
A housing co-op — or housing cooperative — is a community in which a senior has a private room and shares a home or building with other seniors. These options are more scarce across the United States — there are about 125 in the U.S. — but are great options for people that want to maintain their independence but also have a community in which to socialize. Because you’ll be sharing a space with other seniors, co-ops can often be affordable housing options. Co-ops also often entail that residents chip in on household chores, such as cleaning, shopping, or dishes.
Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly Section 8)
With support from HUD, state, regional, and local public housing agencies manage the Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly known as Section 8. The Housing Choice Voucher Program serves more than 5 million people across the nation, helping very low-income people and seniors find affordable housing. Typically, the Housing Choice Voucher Program is for non-disabled seniors that can live independently.
To apply, understand your wait can be long and your income can be no greater than 50 percent of the area’s median income. Check out HUD’s income limitations and other useful info on the program here.
Finding low-income housing for seniors can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. But once you have a better idea of your options, who to talk with, and how to find them, the decision-making process becomes a bit easier.
We hope through this piece you’ve learned more about low-income housing for seniors, how to find them, red flags to look out for, and what info you’ll need to secure an affordable, senior-friendly home.