Learn about government programs that help low-income people find affordable rental housing. Each of the programs - subsidized housing, public housing, and housing choice vouchers - is different. Get the details on how they work, who is eligible, and how to apply.
If you have a low income and need affordable rental housing, government programs may help. Public housing agencies use federal funds to run housing programs locally, working with building owners to subsidize rent for eligible people.
Privately-Owned Subsidized Housing
The government gives some property owners money to provide low-rent apartments. Apply at a property’s rental office. Learn more and search for low-rent apartments at https://apps.hud.gov/apps/section8/.
To be eligible:
1. You must be within the income limit set for the location and size of your family.
2. You may have to meet other requirements set by the property owner.
Housing Choice Vouchers and Public Housing
Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8)
You find your own housing. The government pays your landlord the amount allowed by your voucher each month. You pay the difference, if any.
You can rent an apartment, townhouse, or single-family home.
The property must meet health and safety standards.
Your voucher amount is based on your income, family composition, and local housing costs.
You rent housing from the local public housing agency based on your gross annual income.
Housing may include apartments, townhouses, or single-family homes.
The housing agency will contact your current and past landlords, and may visit you at your current home to determine your suitability as a tenant.
To be eligible for either program, you must be:
A family, senior citizen, or person with a disability
To find out what other help may be available for you locally
Even if you don't qualify to get help with your rent payments through these agencies, they may be able to provide referrals to community organizations that might offer help. You may also search for and contact community or nonprofit organizations in your area directly for help or referral information.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers the HUD-VASD for homeless veterans. It combines HUD housing vouchers with VA supportive services.
The Eldercare Locator is a free service that can connect you with resources and programs designed to help seniors in your area.
Housing Choice Voucher Program (Formerly Section 8)
What help is available?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly known as Section 8) is a program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It helps pay for rental housing for low-income families and for people who are elderly or who have a disability.
You can find your own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments. Housing Choice Vouchers can pay for all or part of the rent.
Since the demand for housing assistance is usually greater than the resources available, you may wait a long time to get on a list and to get a voucher.
Being approved for a voucher in one city or state does not guarantee you'll be approved somewhere else.
What help is available?
Public housing is state-owned, affordable rental houses or apartments for low-income families, people who are elderly, and people with disabilities. Public housing is nationwide, and comes in all sizes and types, from single-family houses to high rise apartments. The program is administered by The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Whether you qualify as elderly, a person with a disability, or as a family
U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status
Other local factors
PHAs use income limits developed by HUD. The lower income limit is 80% and very low income limit is 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area where you want to live.
Because income limits and eligibility requirements vary from area to area, you may be eligible in one state, city, or county but not in another. Contact your local PHA to learn about your eligibility for federal and local public housing programs, Housing Choice vouchers, rental assistance, or subsidized housing.
How do I apply?
To apply, contact your local PHA. Here’s what you can expect during the application process:
Either you or a PHA representative will fill out your written application.
Your PHA usually needs to collect the following information to determine eligibility:
Names of all people who would be living in the unit, their sex, date of birth, and relationship to the family head
Your present address and telephone number
Family characteristics (such as veteran) or circumstances (such as living in substandard housing) that might qualify your family for tenant selection preferences
Names and addresses of your current and previous landlords for information about your family's suitability as a tenant
An estimate of your family's income for the next twelve months and the sources of that income
The names and addresses of employers, banks, and any other information to check your income and deductions, and to verify your family composition
Someone from your PHA may visit you in your home to interview you and your family members to see how you manage the upkeep of your current home.
After obtaining this information, the PHA representative should describe the public housing program and its requirements, and answer your questions.
A PHA representative will ask for documents including birth certificates and tax returns to verify the information on your application. The PHA may also talk to your employer and your other references. You will be asked to sign a form to authorize the release of information to the PHA.
How do I check the status of an application?
Your PHA has to provide written notification of your application's status. If the PHA determines you're eligible, your name will be put on a waiting list. Once it's your turn, the PHA will contact you.
How do I complain/where do I call for extra help?
If you need assistance applying for public housing or getting information about housing programs, contact your local PHA. If you need further assistance, contact your local HUD branch office.
For information about any housing question or if you need to file a complaint about your local PHA, contact the PIH Customer Service Center.
Since the demand for public housing is often larger than the amount of housing available to HUD and the local PHA, long waiting periods are common. A PHA may close its waiting list when there are more families on the list than can be assisted in the near future.
Identify and Complain about Housing Discrimination
Housing discrimination happens when a housing provider acts in a way that blocks someone from renting or buying housing because of their
Race or color
Familial status (such as having children)
A housing provider that discriminates against someone could be a landlord or a real estate management company. It could also be a lending institution like a bank or other organization that is an important part of acquiring a home.
The Fair Housing Act does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. But discrimination against someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) may still be in violation of the Act or other state or local regulations. If you think you've been discriminated against for these reasons, file a complaint as described above, or email HUD at LGBTFairhousing@hud.gov with general questions about LGBT housing issues.
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