Many people struggle to keep up with their housing costs. Affordable housing is more important than ever, especially to people that don’t make a lot of money. If you are dealing with this, you are not alone in your struggle. Some opportunities are available that can help you get back on the right path with affordable housing that works with your financial situation.
Housing issues are on the rise and you might find it hard to find a housing situation that you can afford, which is an issue that many Americans are currently facing. Don’t worry–it’s not just you. There are many available affordable housing opportunities that you can consider. These options can provide some financial relief to those that are eligible to benefit.
What is Affordable Housing and How Does It Apply To You?
Affordable housing can mean so many things–it depends on whom you are asking. However, there is a definition for it. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines affordable housing as no more than 30% of your income on housing costs, which includes utilities. Households that spend more than that on housing may find themselves cost-burdened. If a household is cost-burdened, they can have a tough time handling other costs besides housing like food expenses, medical bills, and more.
The specifics of what it means to have affordable housing will look different for everyone. For example, someone that has a gross income of $10,000 a month would consider affordable housing as being $3,000. On the other hand, a person that makes $2,200 a month would consider affordable housing to be $660 a month. When beginning your journey towards affordable housing, you need to understand your financial situation.
What Affordable Housing Opportunities Are Available?
There are a variety of affordable housing opportunities to consider. Some popular options include:
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is also known as Section 8. This housing program can provide vouchers to qualifying families. The vouchers would go towards covering housing expenses so families have to worry about only paying 30% of their income towards housing.
However, these vouchers can only be used at properties that accept them as a form of payment. On top of that, even if the properties accept the vouchers, they must pass an inspection done by the local public housing authority (PHA). They are the ones to manage the program even though it is a HUD assistance option which is from the federal government. The specific eligibility requirements can vary by area. However, there are generally four categories that your local PHA will consider when determining if you qualify:
- Family Status
- Income Level
- Eviction History
- Citizenship Status
While supportive housing may not necessarily be a type of federal housing assistance, it is still something worth considering! Sometimes, a family can find themselves in desperate need of housing, not just affordable housing. That is why supportive housing can be a great opportunity to consider. Common types of supportive housing include:
- Emergency Shelters
- Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
- Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)
- Transitional Shelters
When a household could benefit from immediate housing, they can turn to emergency shelters. By providing short-term stability, these shelters can give people the support they need to get back on their feet. The goal of these shelters is to help people find a long-term housing solution that meets their needs. The length of time that a person can stay in these shelters can vary, it just depends on the specific shelter.
Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
Sometimes, people can have a hard time keeping up with having a place to call home. They find themselves chronically dealing with homelessness. Known as chronic homelessness, individuals who deal with this may be able to benefit from Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). The HUD defines a person as chronically homeless if they:
- Live in places that are not meant for human habitation (for at least 1 year or in a minimum of 4 separate instances over the course of 3 years where the total length overall is 1 year)
- Stay in Emergency Shelters (for at least 1 year or in a minimum of 4 separate instances over the course of 3 years where the total length overall is 1 year)
- Stay in Safe Havens (for at least 1 year or in a minimum of 4 separate instances over the course of 3 years where the total length overall is 1 year)
- Live in Institutional Care Facilities (for a maximum of 90 days and also have lived in the options listed above before arriving at the facility.)
This is a type of “housing first” solution. The goal of PSH is to provide plenty of different supportive services to help people become independent and have long-term housing as quickly as possible.
Another type of “housing first solution” is Rapid Re-Housing (RRH). RRH aims to help people as quickly as possible. Through RRH, individuals that don’t typically deal with homelessness can benefit from housing and support services. These support services can include time-limited financial assistance and case management. When people don’t usually deal with homelessness it is known as non-chronic homelessness.
Finally, on this list of supportive housing options are transitional shelters. These shelters aim to provide a temporary longer-term solution than other options like emergency shelters. Even though the exact amount of time that a person can stay in these shelters can vary depending on the shelter, it is generally from six months to 24 months. Like other options on this list, these shelters can help people through supportive services. The supportive services available may be able to help people with their employment, physical health, mental health, and more.
HUD also provides public housing, another affordable housing opportunity. Public housing aims to help eligible low-income households get housing at a rent they can afford. Just like Section 8 housing, although it is a federal program, it is managed at the local level. Local housing agencies (HAs) will manage the units that are available through this program. The eligibility requirements will vary, depending on the area. However, some general factors that HAs will keep in consideration include:
- Citizenship Status
- Annual Gross Income
- Family Status
- References for Your Household
Even if you qualify, your local HA has the right to deny you if your references don’t check out. If they believe your habits or practices can hurt other public housing recipients, they want to avoid that.
You can apply for this program through your local HA. If you are finding that you are having a hard time getting in touch with your local HA then you can also reach out to your local HUD Field Office.
If you are financially struggling with housing costs, you are not alone. There are many people out there who are in the same situation. It is important to start your journey to affordable housing. To take part in affordable housing, you will need to spend only 30% of your income on housing according to the HUD definition. If you are spending more than that, maybe it is time to look for housing assistance.
When reviewing affordable housing opportunities, some options to consider include:
- Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)
- Supportive Housing
- Public Housing
Besides the options we mentioned in this article, you may find that there is additional support locally. You can review different affordable housing opportunities by checking out 211.org and Habitat for Humanity. If you have any other questions on affordable housing, get in touch with your local PHA. They can provide you with information to get you started towards opportunities that may be able to help.