How to Find Affordable Housing

Here are some government programs that are helping people save money on rent and find affordable housing.

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Today, most modest-income homes spend about 59% of their income on both transportation and housing. Because of such a high figure, over 4.9 million families in America depend on federal assistance to pay for their rent.

Although it’s not the only available option, government-subsidized rent is a reliable option for those who qualify for it. With that said, let’s dive in and look at four government-funded housing options available for you.

Federally Funded Housing Programs

Public Housing

Public Housing is a rental property subsidized by the federal government. Depending on your area of residence, it can be a cluster of private houses, a chain of duplex houses, or an apartment complex. Many public housing facilities are often gated and consist of pools, small parks, and other spaces.

In the case of complexes, they’re usually funded by the HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). However, the local housing establishment manages them. Just like renting a private apartment, you must meet the housing authority eligibility requirements to move to a public housing facility. The only difference is that the housing authority assists you to figure out the amount of rent you pay. According to HUD guidelines, the rent can be as high as 30% or as low as 25% of your monthly income.

Here’s a list of public housing eligibility requirements:

  • U. S citizenship or an eligible immigration status
  • Offer references
  • Pass a background check
  • Personal meeting with a housing authority agent
  • Meet low-income limits in your states

Today, about 1.2 million households are living in public housing. Nevertheless, these housing facilities have limited space, and individuals can wait for several months and sometimes years before a unit can open in their locality. If there’s no opening when you make your application, they will place you on a waiting list.

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Privately-Owned Subsidized Housing

Besides the federal run subsidized housing program, you can apply for a privately owned subsidized housing program. The program involves complexes managed by property companies or privately owned.

The private companies and landlords offer low-income families some apartments at a reduced rate in exchange for a tax credit. While some families might pay a lower rate for the apartments, others pay the complete market rent, hence the name “mixed-income housing”.

The amount of rent you pay depends on several considerations. Some property owners determine the rent based on your monthly income, while others have a flat lower rate for individuals who qualify. Typically, individuals with less monthly income pay less rent.

Here’s a list of eligibility requirements for this program:

  • Pass the background check
  • Meet the property owner renting requirements- it might include a credit check
  • Make less than maximum monthly income amount–differs depending on state or housing complex

Most of the time you might have to make a direct application via the property owner to receive a lower rent. But you can also find apartments in your locality through HUD’s low-rent apartment search tool.

Rent Payment Assistance

Rent Payment Assistance is a Housing Voucher Program (HVP), otherwise referred to as Section 8.  Unlike subsidized housing where you receive a reduced rent offer, Housing Voucher Program offers you a voucher, which allows you to rent corporate complexes and private property.

The Housing Voucher Program will provide you with more freedom pertaining to where you reside. However, the company managing the property must be on the HVP’s list approved by property owners.

Section 8 helps you to cover a fraction of your monthly rent. Your local public housing authority will cover the remaining amount. Usually, a local Public Housing Agency (PHA) will check out the market prices in your locality and set a base voucher amount. Then, an agent will subtract 30 percent of your monthly income from the voucher amount, determining the monthly assistance you’ll receive.

Renters can decide to rent an apartment that costs that amount or rent another one that’s more expensive if they have enough money to cover the difference.

It’s hard to qualify for this Program. Here are the eligibility requirements:

  • Find a Section-8 approved complex
  • Meet the state’s low-income requirements
  • Offer references
  • Pass a background or credit check

Just like with government-run subsidized housing, you can wait for a long time before you can secure an apartment with this program. It can take several months and sometimes over a year to get help.

Rental Assistance in Rural Areas

Those living in rural areas can apply for a private subsidized housing program awarded by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). This program allows landlords to get tax incentives in exchange for offering low-incomes units at a lower price.

Only individuals with rents that surpass 30 percent of their household adjusted income can qualify for this program. Also, they must live or agree to move to approved rental properties.

Eligibility requirements for the program include:

  • Evidence that your monthly income level is at or below the USDA’s income limit
  • Evidence that your monthly rent surpasses 30% of your income
  • Pass the property owner requirements, which might include a background or credit check

The USDA runs the Rural Rental Assistance program and you can visit your local USDA Rural Field Development office to apply. Make use of the USDA Service Tool to get the contact details.

Additional Options

Besides federal funded rental assistance programs, investigate other state-managed programs and charitable organizations. State programs include:

  1. Onetime assistance
  2. Free money management counseling: For those having money handling problems.
  3. Emergency rent assistance option: Ideal for those at the risk of getting evicted.

Charity organizations can also offer renters one-time rent help by paying the security deposit needed to move to a new apartment. The eligibility requirement for the programs might vary depending on the area.

If you want to find available subsidized housing programs in your area, visit your local housing authority.

Applying for A Subsidized Housing Program

The federal government manages most of the programs we’ve mentioned. However, states handle the applications and circulation of funds.

The application process varies widely from one state to another. While one state can allow online applications, others might require renters to mail their applications or personally visit the office.

For an easy application process, we recommend you visit your local housing authority office first. There you’ll find a list of programs you’re eligible for and learn how to apply. Plus, you’ll discover charitable and state housing programs that you qualify for. To find your local HUD’s office, visit their official website.

Before making any application, ensure you have all the necessary documentation ready, including:

  • A state-issued I. D or driver’s license
  • Latest Pay Stubs
  • The social security number of every household member
  • A copy of the latest bank statement
  • A copy of your lease agreement


If you’re in a tough spot and you can’t pay your rent, you can always get help. Visit your local Housing Authority agent and apply for the programs that you qualify for. Furthermore, try looking through less-familiar federal housing programs that exist.

What’s even more important is to remember these programs can take time and usually have numerous applicants. So, you might have to be patient.

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