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Things to Know Before Applying for Low Income Housing

Sonia Nair Oct 28, 2018
Low income housing is a boon for those who find it difficult to afford a house in today's economy. To venture further, you need to know some guidelines about how to apply for low income housing units.
It is no secret that buying a home is every person's dream. Demands for affordable housing have been increasing, in spite of the rise in economic activities that led to an economic expansion during the 1990s. Those who come under the low income level find it difficult to afford a house in the major cities.
As per the generally accepted definition of affordability, a household should not pay more than 30% of its annual income on housing. Exceeding this limit means that the family is facing difficulties to afford other necessities like food, clothing and medical care.
But today, around 12 million homeowners and renters pay more than 50% of their annual income for housing. In such a situation, it is difficult for a family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage to afford a decent apartment.

What is Low Income Housing?

As the name rightly suggests, low income housing programs are meant for those in the low income group. There are many such programs that assist the needy, to find an affordable home.
Apart from the federal agencies, states and non-profit organizations too operate such programs. Government assistance for low income housing can be direct or indirect.
While some programs provide direct help like rental assistance, some others like Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program provide incentives to private housing developers who construct low income housing units. There are many different federal as well as state programs that help the needy to find low income housing.
For low income housing you must fall under income limits. As per HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) rules lower income limit is 80% of median income for the area you wish to live.
Very low income is 50% of median income. The median income varies with area. So, your eligibility is decided on the basis of various factors like your annual gross income, citizenship or immigration status and your history as a tenant. You may qualify as a family or an elderly or disabled person or a homeless veteran.

Low Income Housing Types

For a person, who wants to apply for a low income housing unit, there are three main options. They are "non-profit housing", "public housing" and "Rental Assistance (as per Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937)". 
While non-profit housing units are owned and managed by private non-profit organizations, public housing is mostly owned and supervised by the government (except the outsourced ones).
There are various rental assistance programs under Section 8, but the most popular one is Housing Choice Voucher Program, which pays a major share of the rents and utilities of the tenants. The program is operated by public housing agencies (PHA) of that area.
As per this program, the applicant has to find out a suitable housing unit and the payment will be made directly to the landlord (if the former is found to be eligible). The tenant has to pay the difference between the government payment and the actual rent.
In some cases, the PHA may permit the applicant to use the voucher for purchasing a house. HUD assistance is also available to find low rent apartments. In this case, the government funds are given directly to the apartment owners, who are willing to let their apartments on low rents for low income people.
Once you decide to opt for a low income housing unit, you have to apply for the same. You may approach developers for privately-owned subsidized homes or go for those provided by non-profit organizations.
You may also apply for government housing assistance for low income housing in your area. It may sometimes take some months or years to obtain such housing. Hence, it is very much important for you to apply at the earliest.

How to Apply?

Applying for low income housing is not a difficult procedure. All you have to do is to contact the local office of the department of Housing and Urban Development, for submitting the application.
You may also log on to HUD.gov and click on the 'states' option. You have to select the particular state you are residing in, and fix an appointment with the local public housing office through the 'contact us' option. If the online application facility is not there in your area, you have to go to the office personally and submit the application.
Take down the name and telephone number of the official to be contacted. Call and tell him about your requirement, and ask him about the documents you may need for the procedure.
Usually, you have to submit a pre-application, along with the basic information regarding your income and requirement. As per the information you have furnished, you may be placed in the waiting list for eligible candidates. Those with very low annual income may become eligible for both public housing as well as programs under Section 8.
However, you have to submit the documents and prove your eligibility, once you get the call from the authorities. You have to submit birth certificate, documents to confirm your annual income (pay slip and income tax returns) and social security number.
Collect all the documents needed and submit them during the appointment with the concerned official. Explain to him the details of your requirements regarding housing. Once they confirm your eligibility, you can proceed further and procure a placement in a housing unit under the specific program.
The authorities may sometimes reject the application, if they are not satisfied with the information and documents you have furnished. You may be given an opportunity to submit the required documents. In case of further denial, you can request for an appeal.
Owing to the ever-increasing number of applicants, the list of eligible candidates can be too lengthy and so, be prepared to wait for some months (or even years), if your name is in the list. Low income housing is not a distant dream, as you can always approach the concerned authority to apply for the same.
Make sure that you have all the required documents with you at the time of submission. A good credit history may also help you positively in this task.