Find Affordable Rental Housing

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.

Infographic: Find Affordable Rental Housing

Government programs help low-income people find affordable rental housing. This infographic explains how they work.

Infographic explaining three programs to help low income people get affordable rental housing.

Infographic explaining three programs to help low income people get affordable rental housing. View a larger version of the infographic.

  • 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.

    Public Housing

    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:

    1. A family, senior citizen, or person with a disability

    2. Within the program’s income limits

    3. A U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen

    To apply for either program:

    1. Contact your local public housing agency. Find yours at https://go.usa.gov/xn4ab.

    2. Complete an application that will ask about your income, family composition, employer, and bank. The housing agency will verify this information.

    3. Provide all necessary documents such as photo ID, birth certificates, and tax returns at the time of your appointment.

    Wait times for these programs can be long and the waiting list may be closed when you try to apply. Keep checking your local public housing agency’s website for their list to reopen.

    To learn more about these programs, call the PIH Customer Service Center at 1-800-955-2232 Monday - Friday 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM ET, or visit https://www.USA.gov/finding-home.

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Find Affordable Rental Housing

People with low income, seniors, and people with disabilities may qualify for help from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to get affordable rental housing. HUD doesn't own rental property. It gives money to states and building owners, who in turn provide low-income housing opportunities.

Get Personalized Help with Your Search

Find a HUD-approved housing counselor in your area online or call 1-800-569-4287 to find a local housing counseling agency. The counselor may be from a non-profit organization approved to offer advice on housing assistance.

Search by Type of Program

 There are three main types of affordable rental housing that are supported by HUD:

  • Privately owned, subsidized housing in which landlords are subsidized to offer reduced rents to low-income tenants. Search for an apartment and apply directly at the rental management office. 
  • Public Housing provides affordable rental houses or apartments for low-income families, people who are elderly, and people with disabilities. To apply, contact a public housing agency in your state.
  • Housing Choice Voucher Program in which you find a rental property yourself, and use the voucher to pay for all or part of the rent. To apply, contact a public housing agency in your state.

If you have trouble contacting your local public housing agency, contact your local HUD field office for help.

If you're a landlord, learn how you can participate in the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

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Help with Rent Payments

Contact the following agencies to find out if you qualify for help with your rent payments:

Contact your state human/social service agency:

  • If you need immediate, emergency assistance
  • To find out what other help may be available for you locally 

Even if you are ineligible for benefits 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.

Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers the HUD-VASD for homeless veterans. It combines HUD housing vouchers with VA supportive services.

Senior Citizens

The Eldercare Locator is a free service that can connect you with resources and programs designed to help seniors in your area.

Rural Residents

Local Rural Development (RD) offices can help rural residents through the Rural Housing Service.

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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.

Am I eligible?

Your local Public Housing Agency (PHA) decides if you are eligible for a Housing Choice Voucher based on:

  • Your annual gross income
  • Whether you qualify as elderly, a person with a disability, or as a family
  • U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status
  • Your family's size
  • Other local factors

In general, your family's income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area.

Each state or city may have different eligibility rules for housing programs. Contact your local PHA to learn about your eligibility for Housing Choice Vouchers.

How do I apply?

  • To apply for Housing Choice Vouchers, contact a Public Housing Agency in your state. If you need more assistance, contact your local HUD office.
  • You will need to fill out a written application or have a representative of your local PHA help you.
  • The PHA representative will collect information on your family size, income, and assets.
  • The PHA will check this information with other local agencies, your employer, and your bank. This helps them decide if you qualify and how much assistance you'll get.
  • The amount of assistance you could get would help you afford a moderately-priced rental in your area.
  • The housing you choose must meet health and safety standards before the PHA can approve the unit.
  • After you've been approved for a voucher and found a place to rent, the PHA will inspect the rental before you sign your lease to be sure it's worth the rental price. 


How do I check the status of an application?

If you qualify for a Housing Choice Voucher, the PHA will put your name on a waiting list. They will contact you when it's your turn to receive a voucher.

How do I complain/where do I call for extra help?

Is there anything else I need to know?

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.

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Public Housing

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).

Am I eligible?

Your local Public Housing Agency (PHA) will determine your eligibility for public housing based on:

  • Your annual gross income

  • 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.

If you feel that you have been a victim of housing discrimination, File a housing discrimination complaint.

Is there anything else I need to know?

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.

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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
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Familial status (such as having children)
  • Disability

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.

Housing discrimination is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. Discrimination covered by the Act can take many different forms beyond just raising prices or lying about availability. For example, the Act addresses wheelchair access in some newer properties. Learn what the Fair Housing Act covers, how to complain, and how the investigation process works.

File a Housing Discrimination Complaint

If you think you are a victim of housing discrimination,

Discrimination Against LGBT People

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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Last Updated: July 09, 2018