5 Qualifying Factors for Subsidized Housing

May 7th 2016

Subsidized housing programs provide low-income individuals with safe and secure housing at affordable rates. While specific eligibility guidelines can vary from state to state, understanding the general requirements for subsidized housing helps potential recipients prepare for the application process.

Income Requirements

In order to qualify for subsidized housing, applicants must meet specific income limits determined by the public housing agency in their county or state. While specific limits can vary depending on state laws, in general, an applicant's income cannot exceed 50 percent of the average income for the area of residence. All income and assets are verified by the public housing agency during the application process.

Housing Units Must Be PHA-Approved

Housing voucher and rent subsidy payment programs differ from public housing programs in the fact that eligible recipients are allowed to choose their own homes. While recipients can choose homes in public housing communities, they are not required to do so. However, all housing units must first be approved by the local public housing agency. In order for housing to be approved, the units must meet specific health and safety requirements determined by the PHA. The PHA is also required to inspect potential housing units and verify that the requested monthly rent is within reason.

U.S. Citizenship or Eligible Immigrant

As of 2015, only U.S. citizens and eligible immigrants are allowed to apply for subsidized housing. Applicants are required to provide the subsidized housing agents with proper identification documentation. While non-eligible immigrants do not qualify for subsidy payments, households with both eligible and non-eligible immigrants may be able to obtain assistance on a pro-rated basis, depending on specific county and state laws.

Criminal Background Check

All individuals who apply for subsidized housing benefits must submit to criminal background checks. While specific regulations can vary from state to state, local public housing agencies have the right to deny applicants if negative criminal information is detected. If the application is denied, the applicant has the right to dispute the criminal record or contest the decision.

Priority Based on Individual Needs

While many individuals are technically eligible for subsidized housing due to income levels and legal status, the waiting list for housing can be long, especially during hard economic times. During these periods, individuals and families with special needs are typically provided with priority housing.

Applicants who are given priority include victims of domestic violence, seniors age 62 or older, disabled individuals and individuals who are paying more than 50 percent of their annual income toward rent. Priority may also be granted to eligible applicants with family members who are currently cooperating with law enforcement in criminal investigations.


Subsidized housing is a government program that provides housing assistance to eligible low-income families and individuals. Assistance is provided in the form of nonprofit housing and direct benefit payments to recipients. Eligible individuals are provided with housing program vouchers they can use to pay a portion of their rent or housing payments.

Eligible recipients provide the vouchers to participating landlords and property owners. The vouchers typically pay the bulk of the housing expenses, leaving the recipients with partial payment requirements based on their incomes. In certain cases, the local public housing agency makes direct subsidy payments to landlords or property owners, after which the tenants are required to pay the remaining portions.

The most commonly utilized subsidized housing program is HUD, a government program that is provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In order to obtain housing assistance, potential applicants must meet specific eligibility requirements. Understanding the qualifying factors for subsidized housing can help potential applicants determine whether or not they are eligible for assistance.

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