Your Path to Affordable Housing

Introduction

Did you know housing is an area where many Americans overspend? It’s true. Experts recommend families only spend up to 30% of their income on housing, however almost every income bracket spends more than that. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics broke down the income brackets into 5 groups of 20%, and all of the groups spent more than 30% of their income on housing in a 2019-2020 study. This is why you should consider applying for government affordable housing programs. That way, you can beat the odds and move against the current trend of overspending on housing. (Bureau of Labor Statistics) That’s why it’s important to sit and figure out your financial situation before you look for a new home in order to take some initiative with affordable housing programs.

This article will inform you what exactly government affordable housing programs offer to you and how they work. There are different types of affordable housing programs that are available in the United States; we are here to tell you all about them and how you can benefit from them.

What are Government Affordable Housing Programs?

If you are wondering, affordable housing programs are governmental programs that ensure you have an affordable housing unit, where you do not spend more than 30% of your income on housing. Affordable housing programs aim to provide housing units to low-income families and individuals. For landlords, they receive tax credits for the percentage of their property used in affordable housing. For renters, they receive federally-funded, financial assistance that pays for rent on a monthly basis.  (Finney)

Affordable housing programs are not only targeted towards rental properties. There are affordable housing programs that aim to provide assistance to homeowners and first-time homebuyers. So, if you are currently looking to buy your first home, then you should look through affordable housing programs, too. But, you should keep in mind that each Program has requirements that you need to meet to qualify. Each Program operates under the state government’s administration. So, eligibility requirements may vary from one state to another.

Understanding Your Financial Situation and Keeping Your Wallet from Being Empty 

Before you start looking for a new home, it would be best for you to create a budget. Write out all of your expenses, including anything extra you spend money on every month. This could include manicures, gym memberships, or streaming subscriptions. Once you take the amount of money you make a month minus the total cost of bills you have, then you have leftover income. Typically, the leftover income would go towards housing costs, like rent. You want to make sure that this amount is below 30% of your income so that it will be considered affordable housing. If the housing costs are more than or equal to 30%, then you are not qualified to apply for affordable housing programs.

If you don’t have enough money left over after you subtract your expenses from your income, that means you’re overextended financially and will need to look for ways to save money.

Pay Attention to Your Credit Score

Those who are looking to rent or buy a housing unit should make sure their credit score is good. A good credit score is pretty subjective and could be redefined in the future. This is why you should make sure to check into it before judging your own. Property managers are more likely to rent a home to someone with a good credit history, rather than to someone with a poor score. For those who are buying a home, their score can mean the difference between low and high interest rates. It can even affect the ability to get a loan at all.

In short, maintaining good credit will open up a lot more options for both renters and buyers. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to check your credit. Everyone with a Social Security number can check their score once a year. You can find out by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com and requesting a report.

If you know you need to improve your credit score, there are ways to do it. There are online applications like Credit Karma that give users tips on how to bring their scores up.

Ask Important Questions, and Only the Really Important Questions

People should also make sure they have their housing goals in mind at all times. You will need to be as realistic as possible about what you need. For instance, do you need five bedrooms or are three workable? Is there a specific neighborhood you need to be in for your children to continue at their current schools? How far away can you live away from work? These questions are essential for you to be able to narrow down your housing options. Also, the housing unit you choose will redefine your finances. For example, if you choose a home that is far away from work, then you will have to increase your transportation expenses.

Once you get the answers for these questions, you can decide which affordable housing program is suitable for you. Additionally, you can also understand your current financial situation, which will make it easier for you in the application process.

What Affordable Housing Programs Are Available?

For those who are financially struggling, there are numerous affordable housing programs to help out. Many organizations provide program assistance to qualifying individuals, but government housing assistance programs are some of the more popular options. Housing assistance programs provide affordable housing to low-income families and individuals. Since your current financial struggle might be different from others, there are different types of affordable housing programs that are available.

There are four types of affordable housing programs that the government offers. This includes: the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) Housing, Section 8 Housing, Non-Profit Housing, and Homebuyer Assistance Program. This article will give you a list of affordable housing programs that are available and the most important factors that come with each program.

Housing and Urban Development Department Public Housing Program

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides low-income housing in cities across the United States.  A housing agency will determine eligibility based on a number of factors, including income and citizenship. The HUD Housing Program allows low-income families and individuals to find and stay in affordable housing. This Program provides housing units in all shapes and sizes. As for the eligibility requirements, the Public Housing Program considers two main factors. These two factors are the annual gross income and the citizenship status. If you qualify for the Program, a PHA will look through your references to ensure that your family is good renters.

If you and your family have any history or habits that might negatively influence the housing unit or the surrounding community, then you will be denied assistance from the Program.

Section 8 Housing Programs

How does this affordable housing program work? The Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly known as Section 8, is a housing voucher program that assists low-income individuals and families cover affordable housing. With this Program, the government covers a portion of a person’s rent. Like public housing, there are eligibility requirements. You will only be able to use your voucher with landlords and housing options that accept them. The Section 8 Program is the most common voucher program across the United States since it allows low-income families more flexibility.

This Program will give you a place to live and pay a portion of the rental expenses. As the tenant, it is your job to pay 30% of your income towards rent. In terms of eligibility, the local PHA will consider four factors of your current situation. The four factors are: your citizenship status, your eviction history, your household size, and your income level. You should keep in mind that your household size and your income level are interlinked, since both aspects decide the amount of financial assistance you will receive, if you are accepted. Also, once you apply, you will likely be waitlisted. The wait-list could take up to two years, so that is an important aspect if you need urgent assistance.

Non-Profit Housing Program

This is a type of housing program specifically designed for qualifying senior citizens, and/or low-income households. This type of housing assistance is run by non-profit organizations. Non-Profit Housing provides housing units for everyone. There are some organizations that provide homes for specific groups. This could include seniors, survivors of violence, and people living with disabilities.

Many renters that are accepted in non-profit housing must have low or moderate income levels. Non-profit housing offer assistance by allowing tenants to pay rent based on their income level. This is better known as rent-geared-to-income (RGI). However, you have to make sure that you fit the criteria that are related with your income level.

Homebuyer Assistance Program

There are federal and state programs to assist people in buying a home. If someone is interested in buying a home, they should check with their state to see what is available. Scheduling an appointment with a housing counselor would also be a good idea. According to KnowYourOptions, a housing counselor provides you with advice on “preventing foreclosure, buying a home, protecting your credit, and other issues.” With the Homebuyer Assistance Program, you will need to be a first-time homebuyer or that you have not owned a housing unit in the past three years. Also, the housing unit you want to purchase needs to pay taxes in your state. Keep in mind that your household income needs to be at 80% or below your area’s median income. (City of Houston: Housing and Community Development)

It is important to remember that each program has its own affordable housing program guidelines. One affordable housing program’s income requirements may not make you eligible for another. That is why it is important to contact your local public housing authority (PHA) on qualifying criteria.

Overall

In conclusion, the federal government offers different types of affordable housing programs. You will find that the consensus defines affordable housing as paying for your housing unit for the amount of 30% of your income. This means that if you pay more than 30% of your income on rent and housing expenses, then you are below affordable housing. Luckily, there are different housing programs that can help with that. The first housing program is the HUD Public Housing Program. This program allows low-income families and individuals to find and stay in affordable housing in all shapes and sizes.

The second program, which is the Section 8 Housing Program, will give you a place to live and pay a part of the rental expenses. As the renter, you will only need to pay 30% of your income towards rent. During the application process, the Program will focus on your household size, income level, eviction history, and citizenship status. For the Non-Profit Housing, this Program will provide housing units to everyone. The only condition is that your income level is low or moderate on a yearly basis. You will find that these types of programs are approved by the federal government and managed by non-profit organizations. Finally, the Homebuyer Assistance Program is a program that assists low-income families and individuals who want to buy a home. But, you will need to be a first-time homebuyer or you have not purchased a home in the past three years.

Happy Hunting!

Finding affordable housing and making sure your finances are in the best shape to do so can be a pain, but it is worth it for the long haul! By organizing your finances, you will not have to stay up half-the night crunching numbers every month. Luckily, there are plenty of programs to help you get started and find your forever or for now home. Either way, it is good news for you!

Works Cited

Bureau of Labor Statistics. “CONSUMER EXPENDITURES MIDYEAR UPDATE – JULY 2019.” 29 04 2021. BLS.gov. 14 07 2021 <https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cesmy.pdf>.

City of Houston: Housing and Community Development. HOMEBUYER ASSISTANCE. 2021. 14 07 2021 <https://houstontx.gov/housing/hap.html>.

Finney, Dennis. Affordable Housing: Investing for Profit. 29 08 2020. 14 07 2021 <https://www.investopedia.com/articles/mortgages-real-estate/10/affordable-housing.asp>.

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