The cost of housing is an issue that many people struggle with. For that reason, affordable housing is more important now than it ever was. Those who struggle with finding affordable housing may find some opportunities out there quite useful to them.
What Does Affordable Housing Actually Mean?
Affordable housing is a relative thing. What some see as affordable may be out of reach for others. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states that affordable housing is no more than 30% of your income. Individuals and families who end up spending more than 30% of their income on housing are seen by HUD as cost-burdened. If a family or individual is cost-burdened, they may be at risk of making cuts when it comes to other expenses such as nutrition, healthcare, or education.
Realistically, affordability is different for each case. That’s why affordable housing can have a different meaning for each person. Let’s say a person makes $9,000 a month. That would mean affordable housing would come at $2,700 for them. In contrast, another person making $3,000 a month would make affordable housing cost them $900 a month. Everyone should have a better understanding of their finances while searching for affordable housing.
The Types of Affordable Housing Opportunities Available
Those who require affordable housing assistance might find the following opportunities useful:
Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8)
Also known as Section 8 housing, this housing assistance program offers vouchers to families who qualify. The purpose of these vouchers is to help these families cover their housing expenses. In the meantime, these families would only need to pay 30% of their income towards their housing.
There are a few things to keep in mind when using these vouchers, though. First of all, these vouchers can only be used at homes whose landlords will accept the vouchers as a form of payment. Second, given the property can be paid for using the voucher, the home will need to be inspected by the local public housing authority (PHA). While HUD created the Housing Choice Voucher Program, it’s the PHAs that manage the program. When it comes to qualifying for the program, the terms of eligibility may vary by area. There are four general qualifying categories that you can expect your local PHA to consider when deciding if you qualify:
- Family Status
- Income Level
- Eviction History
- Citizenship Status
This kind of housing assistance doesn’t come from the federal government, however, it’s still worth checking out. In some cases, families may need to find not just affordable housing, but housing in general. In such situations, supportive housing can be truly useful. Some of the most common supportive housing opportunities include:
- Emergency Shelters
- Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
- Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)
- Transitional Shelters
When looking for immediate housing assistance, families can go to emergency shelters. These shelters provide short-term stability to people to help them get back on their feet. The idea behind these shelters is to give support to families while they find long-term housing solutions that fit their situations. How long a family can stay in the shelter depends on the shelter itself.
Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
People may struggle to find their permanent homes for a long time. These people are often referred to as chronically homeless. Chronically homeless people may find PSH very useful. HUD may identify 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 four separate instances over the course of three years where the total length overall is 1 year)
- Stay in emergency shelters (for at least 1 year or in a minimum of four separate instances over the course of three years where the total length overall is 1 year)
- Stay in safe havens (for at least 1 year or in a minimum of four separate instances over the course of three years where the total length overall is 1 year)
- Live in institutional care facilities (for a limit of 90 days and also have lived in the above options before entering the facility.)
PSH aims to provide housing assistance to those who qualify as soon as possible. That’s why PSH qualifies as a “housing first solution.” Besides providing housing assistance, PSH provides a list of supportive services that help people achieve independence while working on finding their long-term homes.
Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)
Another example of a “housing first solution” is Rapid Re-Housing (RRH). This program focuses on helping people with housing as soon as it can. People who don’t normally deal with homelessness are the target audience of the program. The program can also provide supportive assistance including time-limited financial assistance and case management. These people who don’t usually struggle with homelessness are often referred to as non-chronic homeless.
Last but not least on the list of supportive housing options is transitional shelters. Transitional shelters allow qualifying individuals and families to access a temporary longer-term solution, compared to other opportunities such as emergency shelters. It’s not possible to tell you how long you can stay in these shelters since it may differ from one transitional shelter to the other. However, transitional shelters will often take people in for a period of six to 24 months. Transitional shelters also provide numerous support services that may help their tenants get back on their feet. These supportive services may include things such as employment assistance, healthcare, mental health counseling and more.
Besides the housing assistance program offered by HUD that we already mentioned, public housing also joins that list. This program focuses on helping qualifying low-income households with getting housing at affordable rates. Much like Section 8, this is a federal program that is run locally by different entities. These entities are called housing agencies (HAs). HAs manage the public housing units. Moreover, qualifying for public housing may require criteria that vary according to the area a person lives in. HAs have a general list of factors that they consider when determining a person’s eligibility for public housing:
- Citizenship Status
- Annual Gross Income
- Family Status
- References for Your Household
If you’re applying for public housing, there’s something important that you should keep in mind. Even if you meet all eligibility terms, HAs still may deny your application if your references are not valid. If an HA thinks your habits and practices may negatively influence other tenants, they may deny you the opportunity to access public housing. To start your public housing application process, contact your local HA. If you’re having a hard time reaching your local HA, then you can contact your local HUD Field Office.
Let’s Wrap Things Up
More people are struggling to keep up with housing costs than you think. These people should start seeking affordable housing. According to HUD, affordable housing should cost you no more than 30% of your income. If your housing expenses cost you more than that, you should consider seeking housing assistance.
When you’re looking for affordable housing opportunities, you should consider the following options:
- Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)
- Supportive Housing
- Public Housing
It’s great that the government provides these housing assistance opportunities. However, you should also look into housing assistance that is available locally. Some non-profit organizations assist such as 211.org and Habitat for Humanity. Finally, if you have any inquiries regarding affordable housing, contact your local PHA. They can give you reliable information regarding housing assistance programs that may benefit you.