Understanding Popular Housing Assistance Options

We all need a safe, sanitary place to call home. In this day and age, it’s getting more and more difficult to afford to rent and buy homes. The constant increase in real estate prices is driving some families towards financial struggles. In more extreme cases, that increase could drive some families and individuals into homelessness. Some people may resort to housing loans from private organizations like banks if they qualify for them but the problem with these loans is that they can come with a very high-interest rate.

As a result, the federal government, through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), developed affordable housing assistance opportunities. HUD’s housing assistance can come in different forms. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular federal housing assistance opportunities.

Who Are These Housing Assistance Opportunities Meant For?

While every program is different, most of them are aimed at low- and moderate-income individuals and families in the US. As a general rule, to qualify for these assistance programs, you’ll need to be a US citizen or an eligible immigrant and be able to prove that your income is low compared to your local income median. The main idea behind these programs is to lift individuals and families out of poverty and to help provide safe shelter for those who need it.

Types Of Available Housing Assistance Opportunities

As we mentioned above, there’s a wide selection of programs to choose from. Each program will come with its own advantages and qualifying terms. Some housing assistance opportunities will focus on providing immediate help to those who need it. Other housing assistance opportunities will focus on the long-term shelter and wellbeing of the applicant. You must also keep in mind that different states will have different available opportunities so if a housing assistance program exists in New York, it won’t necessarily exist in Oklahoma.

Public Housing

This is one of the most commonly known forms of government housing assistance programs. Public Housing is a program that provides housing projects subsidized by the federal government. Public housing often comes in the form of apartment complexes. These apartment complexes are managed by the government through local public housing authorities (PHAs), to ensure a good quality of living. HUD established public housing as a way to “provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.”

Section 8 Housing/Housing Choice Vouchers

Section 8 housing is a really interesting program where the tenant chooses their own home. What matters is that these homes’ owners must accept Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV).

Ok, let’s explain how it works. HCV is a program created to help low-income families find stable housing. The idea is that when HCV holders find an eligible home, the government will help them afford its rent by paying a portion of it through the vouchers that your local PHA will provide. HUD funds these programs while the local PHA will manage and administer the support for these programs.

The process starts with applying at your local Public Housing Authority (PHA). You should also contact your PHA for information on any housing assistance programs. Your local PHA will always be your most reliable source of information. Besides applying and providing the required documents, you’ll also need to find a place that accepts Housing Choice Vouchers. You should also keep in mind that different PHAs might have different eligibility requirements.

Qualifying Requirements for Section 8 housing:

  • Applicants must be American citizens or eligible immigrants
  • There will be a criminal background check required. Applicants must not have records of criminal drug-related charges, especially in the 3 years before applying for HCV
  • Applicants must prove that they qualify for low-income status. An applicant’s income must not be more than 50% of their local income median.

One thing to keep in mind is that there’s usually a long waitlist to get your Housing Choice Vouchers. Generally, PHAs will focus on serving elderly people, people with disabilities, veterans, and those most in need first. So here’s some advice on how to move up the waiting list:

  • Be severely low-income
  • Show that you are homeless or live in a shelter
  • Have a disability
  • Be elderly
  • Be a Veteran

Supportive Housing

While this housing isn’t necessarily offered through HUD, it is still a form of housing support to consider.  Four common types of supportive housing which are:

  • Emergency Shelters
  • Transitional Shelters
  • Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)
  • Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)

Emergency Shelters

When people need help right away, they should turn to an emergency shelter. These shelters aim to help families when they first experience a crisis. These shelters can provide support services to offer some stability in the short-term. Each emergency shelter is different so that means how long an individual can stay in these shelters will vary.

Transitional Shelters

Transitional shelters aim to provide a longer term temporary housing solution for individuals dealing with hardship. Generally, individuals will be able to stay in this housing for 6 months to 24 months. The aim of these shelters is to help those that are dealing with homelessness. Generally, they also offer supportive services that can help people with employment, health, etc.

Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)

Sometimes individuals need housing as soon as possible. That is why RRH is a good supportive housing option to consider. This is a type of “housing first solution”. It aims to assist individuals that don’t normally deal with homelessness (which is known as non-chronic homelessness). Some of the benefits that come along with RRH include being able to rent an apartment on their own at a rate they can afford while getting support services.

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)

While most shelters will provide short-term accommodation, we’re now starting to discuss longer-term solutions. PSH is a solution created under the Continuum of Care (CoC). PSH aims to provide low-income families with homes that charge low rental rates. But, what separates PSH from any other type of housing is that it aims to support disabled people. So, Permanent Supportive Housing will focus on supporting families that include at least one disabled member.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development recognizes the term “disabled” as a person who struggles with physical and/or developmental disabilities. The term also includes individuals who struggle with chronic mental illnesses. Since PSH focuses on helping disabled individuals, it will not only provide affordable housing, but also supportive services. These supportive services aim to ease and help progress the life of these disabled individuals as well as their families. Here’s a list of the services PSH may be able to offer these families:

  • Annual Assessment of Services
  • Moving costs
  • Case management
  • Childcare
  • Education services
  • Employment assistance and job training
  • Food
  • Housing search and counseling services
  • Legal services
  • Life skills training
  • Mental health services
  • Outpatient health services
  • Outreach services
  • Substance abuse treatment services
  • Transportation
  • Utility deposits


Having a roof over your head is an obvious priority. But also, living somewhere safe and sanitary should be a high priority on your list. There are many governmental programs out there to help you out. Spend the time, do the research and ask reliable sources of information. You may just find yourself in the housing situation of your dreams.

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