Income Based Housing
Thank you for allowing us to assist you in your search for income based housing including apartment and rentals. Please click your State below to be directed to a list of government, state and local programs made available for low income families and individuals.
What Is Income Based Housing and How Do You Get It
As defined by the US Government, income based housing, more commonly referred to as public Housing is a program that was established to ensure that low income families and individuals, the elderly and people with disabilities are able to find decent, safe housing the cost of which is keyed to their ability to pay. According to government statistics 1.2 million households are living in public housing.
The federal government’s Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD) provides funding as well as planning, development and management assistance to housing agencies (HAs) who administer the actual properties. There are approximately 3300 HAs and each state has their own programs.
In order to be considered for income based housing, a participating housing agency must determine eligibility based on a submitted application with documentation of annual gross income, as well as whether or not the applicant is a U.S. citizen and their status as either low income, disabled or elderly. Applicants must also be able to provide references attesting to the fact that they are “good tenants”. Housing Agencies reserve the right to deny any applicant with habits or practices known to jeopardize other tenants or the project environment.
HUD has established income limits for applicants who fall into two basic categories: lower income and very low income. To be considered as low income, an applicant must be able to demonstrate an annual yearly income of 80% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the applicant lives. To be considered very low income, annual income must be at or below 50% of local median income. Tied to local income as the guidelines are, it is possible for an applicant to be qualified in one county or metropolitan area and not another. The local HAs maintain this information for prospective applicants and may be obtained from them as well as be found on the internet.
Formal application for the program is made through a local HA. The local field office of HUD can provide interested low income families and individuals with contact information for their local area housing agencies, but the information should also be readily available from local social service agencies and libraries.
All applications must be written and provide full and complete information relating to family size and identity, present location, lists of current and previous landlords, projected next year (12 month) income, employer and banking information. Further, applicants may be subjected to an on-site visit by the HA representative at their current place of residence. Financial documentation will also need to be provided.
Once an applicant has been deemed eligible, the HA provides written notification and the applicant’s name is placed on a waiting list, when their name is reached on the list, they will be notified by the HA. The length of time spent on the list depends on local need and housing unit availability in the area, and may vary from a few days to a year or more.
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Federal Income Based Housing Programs
The U.S. Government administers several income based housing programs through the federal agency the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The largest and best known program available for low income U.S. citizens is the public housing program, which makes available safe and affordable housing for applicants verified to be in the low and lower income brackets, the elderly and the disabled. The program is administered through local “Housing Agencies and eligibility is determined by household income; in the low income category, low income is determined at 80% of local median income and lower income is 50% of local median income. Application is made through the local housing agencies. The housing agencies build, develop and maintain public housing complexes and units into which program recipients are placed—one limitation of the program is that it is keyed to local median income—one may be qualified in one county or city in a particular geographic location but not the next city or county if the median income in that location is different.
Another federal program is known popularly as “Section 8” but is more properly titled: The Housing Choice Voucher Program. Under this program assistance is provided by means of rental subsidies which limit the amount of monthly rent required to be paid by the program recipient. To qualify for Section 8 an applicant must have a verified yearly household income below 50% of Median Local Income. Median local income varies from location to location; once again the program is locally administered by housing agencies through which application must be made. The voucher program will pay monthly rental amounts above 30% of your adjusted monthly income up to an established limit—as an example a $900 a month apartment would require a program recipient with a monthly adjusted income of $2000 to pay $600 with the voucher covering the remaining $300—as long as Fair Market Rent for the area is equal to or greater than the $900 rent amount. The voucher program is an attractive one because rather than being restricted to federally funded public housing units, recipients can rent any property where landlords will accept the vouchers. The program is also portable, unlike the public housing program, once a voucher has been granted, it can be used anywhere there are housing agencies to administer the voucher program in the 50 states.
This program has been historically known to have long waiting lists—running into years, and as a result, the local housing agencies often close applications to the program to new applicants. Like the public housing program, prospective tenants must apply to a local housing agency, provide income, household information, references, and be able to demonstrate their ability to be good tenants.
A third federal program is popularly known as “Section 42” which is The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (also known as LIHTC or “lie-tech”). This program is not aimed at low income applicants, but rather seeks to encourage affordably priced housing availability by offering a tax credit for the utilization of private equity in the development of affordable housing aimed at low-income Americans. This program accounts for the majority of all affordable rental housing created in the United States today largely because tax credits, unlike tax deductions, provide a dollar for dollar reduction in federal income tax owed by those qualifying for the program. This program is largely populated by corporations, as changes to the tax codes reduced the value of tax credits to individuals in recent years.
Although a federal program, LIHTC is administered at the state level in all 50 states through State Housing Finance Agencies; each state receives a fixed amount of credits based on its population. Credits are awarded to projects through “allocation rounds” and recipients are ranked, with the top ranked recipient receiving the first round of credits, the second the second and so forth until all allocated credits for the period are exhausted.
These are the three Income Based Housing programs administered by the Federal Government. In addition to federal programs, state, city and private programs also exist. The Department of Housing and Urban Development can direct interested applicants to the active federal programs in their area via their website as well as local field offices.
Private Charitable Organizations for Low Income Housing Needs
Across the nation there are a number of charitable organizations which have as their mission the promotion of affordable housing for low income Americans.
Most of these programs are not able to provide monetary assistance or directly place applicants in affordable housing, there are federal programs which exist that provide subsidies, vouchers and tax credits that more directly fill this need, but these charitable organizations are able to provide counseling, education and relocation services to those needing to find safe and affordable housing. Affordable Housing Centers of America is one such resource and has offices in 19 cities, 14 states (including the District of Columbia). It is a nonprofit organization which is headquartered in Illinois and certified by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Several “Faith Based Organizations” (FBO) exist nationwide with affordable housing as their focus. An FBO is a program entity that is administered by a religious congregation, a national network of a national denomination, or freestanding religious organization. The Department of Housing and Urban Development statistics indicate that some fourteen percent of all available community development organizations are faith based and at least half of all sponsors of housing for the elderly developed by HUD are faith based. An example of an FBO dedicated to affordable housing for the low income is Catholic Charities USA’s Housing Counseling Program. As the name would indicate this is largely a counseling service consisting of agencies where staff is trained to provide homebuyer education, mortgage delinquency and reverse mortgage counseling, relocation counseling, and other services to those in danger of homelessness and the homeless. CCUSA’s Housing Counseling Program works on both a national and local level, with affiliates in 24 states in both rural and urban areas.
One unique and well known FBO that goes above and beyond counseling and education services is Habitat for Humanity International which was founded in 1976 by Linda and Millard Fuller. The Fullers developed the idea of “partnership housing” which paired those in need of adequate shelter working side by side with volunteers to build safe and affordable basic housing. Houses are built at no profit and interest free loans are provided. Establishment of a revolving “The Fund for Humanity” provided construction capital, the money for the fund coming from new homeowner mortgage payments, no interest loans provided by Habitat supporters as well as money from fund raising activities. The fund’s money comes from the new homeowners’ house payments, no-interest loans provided by supporters and money earned by fund-raising activities and all monies in the fund are used to build new housing. Habitat for Humanity International has built more than 400,000 houses worldwide, which have sheltered more than 2 million people worldwide.
These are but a few of the charitable organizations that exist in the USA dedicated to helping address low income housing needs. A charity locator site, http://www.charitynavigator.org is available on the internet to aid interested individuals to find and read the ratings of other charitable housing organizations nationwide, searchable by state or other keywords.