If you’re wondering what do you need to qualify for low-income housing, you’ve come to the right place.
While rules vary across the country, there are some broad similarities for how to qualify for and the process to attain low-income housing in the United States.
In this article, we’ll discuss low-income housing options, public housing, the Section 8 program, what qualifications you need to obtain low-income housing, as well as other things to consider.
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What is low-income housing?
The two primary forms of low-income housing in the United States are public housing and the Section 8 program.
Both programs are in part managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — commonly known as HUD — a federal government agency that supports community development and homeownership. HUD enforces the Fair Housing Act, works to increase safe and affordable rental options, reduce chronic homelessness, and supporting vulnerable populations.
Your county or city housing authority also helps manage low-income housing units, providing residents with more affordable rent and other housing resources.
What is public housing?
Public housing is a form of rental housing in which the property is at least partially owned by a city, county, state, or federal government.
The U.S. public housing program’s goal is to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities, according to HUD. There are about 970,000 families living in public housing units that are managed by about 3,300 local housing agencies, HUD reports. HUD provides federal dollars to the local housing agencies, which in turn manage public housing for low-income residents that receive more affordable rent.
What is government-subsidized housing?
Residents with government-subsidized housing typically live in a privately-owned property and receive government assistance in paying their rent. Nonprofits and other companies also can own and operate government-subsidized housing options. With government-subsidized housing, private owners receive government subsidies in exchange for renting their properties to low- and moderate-income people.
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Housing Choice Vouchers, formerly known as Section 8
HUD leads the Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly known as Section 8, and collaborates with local public housing agencies to administer it. The program aims to help low-income families, the elderly, and disabled people afford safe and sanitary housing in the private marketplace.
Vouchers may be provided directly to a renter or administered on their behalf by local public housing agencies, which would directly pay the landlord directly. Individuals or families then pay the difference between the rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.
If the vouchers are provided directly to families or individuals, participants can choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program, including single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments. In some cases and if authorized by the local public housing agency, a family may use its voucher to purchase a home.
What do you need to qualify for low-income housing?
While qualifications can vary from state to state and city to city, the main criteria to qualify for low-income housing depend on your family status, income level, citizenship status, and eviction history. Whatever the case, if you’re seeking government-subsidized, low-income housing, you’ll have to provide ample information to prove your qualifications to your local public housing authority.
To obtain Housing Choice Vouchers, HUD will evaluate your family status to determine if it fits their criteria. HUD defines a family as either a single person or group of people, including:
- A household with or without children.
- An elderly family, which is defined as a family whose head, spouse, or sole member is at least 62 years of age or one or more persons who are at least 62 living with one or more live-in aides.
- A disabled family, which is defined as a family whose head, spouse, or sole member is a person with disabilities or one or more persons with disabilities with one or more live-in aides.
- A displaced family in which each member or the sole member is displaced by governmental action, or whose dwelling has been extensively damaged or destroyed as a result of a disaster declared by a federal organization.
- A remaining member of a tenant family, which is defined as a family member of an assisted tenant family who remains in the unit when other members of the family have left the unit.
- A single person who is not an elderly or displaced person, or a person with disabilities, or the remaining member of a tenant family.
HUD establishes income limits for housing assistance by family size and updates the figure annually, which you can see via HUD’s datasets portal here.
To access the housing choice voucher program, there are two main income limits. The “very low-income limit’ is typically set at 50 percent of the area median income and is most frequently used to determine initial program eligibility, according to HUD.
The “low income-limit” is set at 80 percent of the area median income and is used for families whose incomes fall above the very low-income limits but who are considered to be eligible for assistance because they are continuously assisted under public housing or Section 8 programs.
HUD states that a family’s income must be within the income limits for the public housing authority’s jurisdiction at the time the family receives a voucher to search for housing. In addition, the family must select a unit in an area in which the family meets the income limit for the housing choice voucher program.
Only U.S. citizens and applicants who have eligible immigration status can access federal housing assistance. People that are claiming eligible immigration status must present their immigration documents, which must be verified by your local housing authority through the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Every applicant household applying for the housing choice voucher program must sign a certification that affirms every household member is a U.S. citizen, an eligible alien, or declare the individual’s ineligibility.
You’ll have to note any past eviction history — personally and among your household’s members — with your housing authority. Any person evicted from public housing or any Section 8 program for drug-related crimes is ineligible for assistance for at least three years from the date of the eviction, according to HUD.
How to apply
If you want to apply for public housing, HUD recommends that you contact your local housing authority, which you can find here. If you cannot reach your housing authority, contact your area’s HUD Field Office.
Once you reach the appropriate parties, you’ll need to provide a variety of information that we noted above. This info may include:
- The names, dates of birth, and your relationships to everyone living in the unit.
- Documents such as birth certificates, citizenship records, and tax returns.
- Your current address and telephone number.
- Family member statuses (such as U.S. veteran, disabled, etc.).
- Names and addresses of your current and previous landlords.
- Your family’s estimated income for the next year.
- The names and addresses of employers, banks, and any other financial info that the housing authority can use to verify your income.
There are a variety of avenues through which you can find and secure low-income housing. Check out some of these other helpful low-income housing articles from Low Income Relief, including How to Apply for Section 8 Vouchers and How to Find Section 8 Houses for Rent.
We hope you learned more about low-income housing options, public housing, the Section 8 program, what qualifications you need to obtain low-income housing, and how to apply.