Practical Tools for Finding the Best Low Income Housing

May 7th 2016

Housing is one of the most important factors in life. It’s a simple and obvious concept that is even more critical when there are children involved. The instability that can come when families are forced to move frequently while searching for affordable housing causes problems in school and at home. It’s no secret that being able to find a decent place to live is a struggle for too many families in the United States. The shortage of low income rentals and inexpensive homes for sale makes knowing how to find what’s out there all the more important. Being informed offers an advantage when it’s time to search.

Low Income Housing Resources

Strategies that are helpful when it comes to finding available options include government agencies, nonprofit groups and resource organizations. The National Low Income Housing Coalition is a political lobbying and action group. While they don’t offer specific information, they do suggest a good tactic– calling your Congressional Representative. The office should have someone familiar with your district who can point you in the right direction.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website has extensive information about who can qualify and where to look for low income housing, including links about how and where to apply. Everything from information about programs to assist first-time home buyers to links to non-governmental organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, is at your fingertips.

Volunteers of America is a good place to find out about what is available in your area as well. Owning properties in 40 states and Puerto Rico, VOA provides affordable housing to more than 25,000 people. Even if they don’t have available units, they can direct inquiries to other agencies.

Qualifying for Rental Assistance

The primary standard used to determine eligibility for help paying rent is, of course, income. How much you make is also considered in context with where you live. Applicants for HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program can earn no more than 50 percent of the median income in their area. That means places like San Francisco will have a higher bar than cities like Boise, Idaho. HUD requires local agencies around the country to expend 75 percent of their subsidies to families earning less than 30% of the area’s median income.

 Other factors used to tilt services to those most in need include homelessness and living in housing that is considered substandard. A positive feature of the vouchers is choice. Approved applicants can apply the vouchers toward any property they choose. The Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet outlines the program in detail.

Practical Tools for Local Searches

Many cities have their own agencies tasked with helping low income persons find affordable housing. The New York City Housing Authority, for example, has extensive resources meant to inform people about what’s available and how to qualify. Almost every major city, most smaller cities and even some small towns have information available that can point persons to affordable housing resources. Don’t be afraid to ask about where you can go to learn more.

 The biggest problem most municipalities have is with regard to supply matching demand. There are many more people in America needing assistance with housing than getting it. Those who do find quality low income housing are the people who are the most informed and persistent. The latest information on available resources is online, meaning access to the Internet is crucial to a successful search. Libraries are still a good place to get online, and many local agencies have computers that can be used when searching.

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