Tag Archives: Section 8

How to Apply for Low Cost Housing

The application process for Low Cost Housing begins with determining which program and at what government or private sector level is best for the applicant’s circumstances.  There are a number of federal, state and private sector agencies that have programs available to assist with housing needs.

A first step is to identify your housing requirements and their immediacy. A number of low cost housing options require a lengthy application process and extended periods of time spent on waiting lists for units to become available.  Even programs such as the federal government’s Housing Voucher program may have waiting lists which depend on the availability and amount of funding for the applicants geographic area.  If a housing need is time critical it may be necessary to search out other options among those available in the private sector and on the state and local level which have the flexibility to offer short term emergency assistance with housing needs.

Once an applicant has identified the programs that are the best fit for their situation, knowing where to apply for low cost housing is the next logical step.  Some programs such as the Section 8 Housing Voucher program require that an applicant first identify a prospective property and approach the landlord to determine if the property owner will accept the terms, conditions and realities of being involved in the program.  Only then can the applicant proceed through the actual application process.  Other programs, such as applying for federal public housing involve establishing eligibility in advance of locating housing.  Federal housing programs require that applicants contact a local designated “Housing Authority” to begin their journey along the paper trail.  These Housing Authorities are local entities established to manage the programs and properties under the Department of Housing and Urban Development control and by their regulations.

All applicants must be prepared to submit extensive documentation regarding their family which includes identifying the individuals and providing information about each family member.  Documentation of a family’s annual gross income, proof of citizenship, and which supports their status as income, disabled or elderly will be required.  Applicants will also be expected to submit testimonials and references from current and prior landlords attesting to the fact that they will be good tenants who will not present a danger or disruption to existing communities. Housing agencies always maintain the absolute right to deny anyone with known habits or histories that might jeopardize other tenants or public housing environments. Financial documentations including proof of wages, bank accounts, and any existing financial assets or liabilities will also be required.

Most programs will require a “site visit” which generally takes place in the current resident of the applicant and which is conducted by a representative of the housing authority.

Once the paperwork has been submitted, a lengthy review process begins, which will lead to a determination of eligibility for the program applied for which is generally received in the form of an eligibility letter which will direct the applicant regarding the next steps needing to be taken and what to expect. .  Most often even once approved, a significant amount of time will be spent on a waiting list before actual housing placement or rent assistance occurs.

Those seeking to apply for low cost housing must be aware of and willing to accept the realities of the application process, which can be slow moving, demanding and frustrating. The benefits of these programs are worth the time difficulties inherent in the process.

What are Low Income Apartments?

Anyone finding themselves in need of low income apartments may first want to understand how low income housing is defined.  Affordable housing is generally considered to be a dwelling whose total cost—either rented or purchased is considered reasonable to those with a median household income.  The statistical term “median” refers to a point precisely mid range between the lowest and highest levels of the item being compared.  In income this would be the dollar amount (generally within a previously defined geographic area) exactly at the midpoint between the lowest incomes and the highest.

Guidelines for “affordable housing” vary, but the commonly accepted guideline in the U.S. is a cost which does not exceed 30% of a particular household’s gross (before taxes) income on a monthly basis.  Carrying costs which exceed 35% of household income classifies a dwelling as unaffordable for the household.

In recent decades the cost of housing has risen so dramatically that this rule of thumb has become increasingly under fire as unrealistic.  The world real estate market since the year 2000 has experienced a housing pricing “boom” cycle which has put the affordability of both purchased and rental units out of the reach of lower to mid income families. Income—which is the driving factor in housing affordability—has not kept pace with inflated real estate prices, which further complicates the equation.

The recent economic downturn has resulted in a flattening of real property values which are then reflected in lowered sales prices, but unfortunately at the same time, the recent financial crisis has also severely impacted income levels which have dropped as the free market adjusts based on the laws of supply and demand. With larger numbers of employees seeking work, employers have increasingly driven down the real wages of new hires.

There are severe social and economic costs to a lack of affordable housing which impact the overall health of a community as defined by urban planners.  Lack of affordable apartment rentals in a geographic location have the end result of driving potential renters farther away from economic centers where the best employment opportunities are, to outlying lower cost areas.  This results in longer commutes which effectively erase any financial benefits to reduced housing costs, especially as the price of gasoline continues to escalate.  Increasing congestion on roadways and highway systems, lack of low cost labor, and even declines in school enrollment have all be directly linked to a lack of affordable housing in most U.S. cities.

So what exactly are low income apartments?  For a family of four making less than 80% of the median income for their area (the federal definition of a low income family unit), with an income of 25,000, rental and associated costs should come to no more than approximately $625 dollars a month.  In many areas of the United States today, that amount of rent will not pay for a one bedroom apartment, let alone a living space comfortably able to accommodate a family of four.

A lack of affordable housing will continue to be not only a reality of modern living but a controversial and contentious issue with great social implications as the world moves forward into the future.