Types Of Housing Assistance
The United States Housing Act of 1937 established the first public housing program designed to address the well-being of individuals. The program authorized loans to local housing agencies to cover expenses for lower-rent public housing construction.
Today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides grants to public housing agencies, including Indian Housing Authorities, to finance capital expenses associated with the construction, rehabilitation and acquisitions of public housing. In most communities, lower-income individuals and families have access to various types of housing assistance programs, including public housing, Section 8, privately owned subsidized housing and the Second Chance Homes program for teen mothers and their children. Here, we will introduce different types of housing assistance and explain the eligibility requirements for each.
Public housing was established to “provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.” Public housing includes a variety of housing types and sizes, from single family homes to high-rise apartments. HUD administers federal aid for about 3,300 public housing agencies, which manage approximately 1.2 million households living in public housing units.
Public housing is available to low-income individuals and families. A local housing agency determines each applicant’s eligibility based on several factors, including the following:
- annual gross income
- whether he or she qualifies as elderly, disabled or as a family
- U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status
The housing agencies use income limits developed by HUD based on the median income of the county or metropolitan area in which the applicant lives. Income limits vary, so a person may be eligible for public housing in one area but not in another.
If an applicant is determined to be eligible for public housing, the housing agency will check references to determine the applicant’s suitability as a tenant. People can be denied admission if their “habits and practices may be expected to have a detrimental effect on other tenants or on the project’s environment.” Once public housing has been offered and accepted, a lease must be signed with the housing agency. Rent is based on the family’s expected gross annual income less any eligible deductions.
The Section 8 housing choice vouchers and rental certificate programs are intended to help very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to rent decent, safe and sanitary housing within the private rental market. Eligible individuals and families find and lease housing that meets program requirements, including single-family homes and apartments.
The Housing Choice Vouchers Program, a type of Section 8 program, is administered by local public housing agencies. The agencies pay the property owner or landlord directly on behalf of the participant. The housing agency determines a payment standard appropriate for its location, and the family is responsible for any difference between the actual rent and the amount of subsidy the program provides.
The Section 8 Rental Certificate Program differs from the Housing Choice Vouchers Program in the way that the subsidy is calculated. In the rental certificate program, the rent may not exceed a maximum dollar amount that is determined by the housing agency based on HUD standards for each county and metropolitan area. The certificate holder typically contributes 30% of his or her monthly adjusted income toward rent and utilities.
Local public housing agencies determine eligibility for Section 8 programs based on total annual gross income, family size, U.S. citizenship and non-citizens with eligible immigration status. The family’s income must not be greater than 50% of the median income for the area in which the family lives.
Privately Owned Subsidized Housing
HUD housing, or project-based Section 8 housing, includes multifamily complexes that are privately owned and subsidized. This type of housing assistance is available to individuals and families with incomes that are at or below 30% or 50% of the county’s or metropolitan area’s median income. Some HUD buildings are reserved for elderly people, people with disabilities, or people who do not have a permanent address and who are in need of housing. Often, private owners hire property management companies to oversee the properties. HUD conducts regular inspections of subsidized properties to make sure the housing meets habitability standards. The tenant must have his or her income certified each year to remain eligible for the housing subsidy.
Second Chance Homes Program
Second Chance Homes are group homes or apartment clusters, supervised by adults, for teen mothers and their children. Federal resources are available to state and local governments and community-based organizations to create Second Chance Homes. While programs differ by location, they typically include the following features:
- Adult supervision
- A requirement to complete high school or earn a GED
- Access to support services including child care, counseling, healthcare and transportation
- Parenting and life skills classes
- Education and job training services
- Employment services
- Case management and mentoring
Eligibility requirements differ for each Second Chance Home. Some locations may target teenage mothers or homeless families. Other programs accept any mother who needs a place to live, regardless of age, income or the assistance programs for which she may qualify. Teen mothers are referred to Second Chance Homes through welfare agencies, foster care programs, community organizations and homeless shelters.
The Bottom Line
Housing assistance programs help low- and very low-income individuals and families, as well as the elderly and the disabled, to secure safe, decent and sanitary housing. These programs are subsidized by the federal government and provide assistance to approximately 4% of Americans. Those in need of housing assistance can contact their local public housing agencies or visit www.hud.gov and search for “PHA Contact Information” to find a local housing agency.