Understanding and Applying for Housing Aid

What Is Housing Aid?

Housing aid, or pubic housing assistance (PHA), is different federal programs that help with subsiding rents for low-income families and individuals. Different state and city public housing authorities administrate all these programs. The HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) oversees these programs that the cities and states implement. These programs were developed because of the government’s efforts that started with the Great Depression.

Section 8 Housing

Section 8 housing was created by the Community Development Act of 1974 and is the main type of housing aid that is given by the federal government. Section 8 housing is administered by the HUD.

Public Housing

Another form of PHA consists of public housing itself. This gained popularity during the 1960s, as there were a number of apartment blocks that were started in many communities around the U.S. These were meant for low-income individuals and families. Popularity has decreased slightly as vouchers have become more popular.

What Factors Allow You to Apply for Housing Aid?

The HUD will rely on local housing authorities to help determine the eligibility for housing aid. Some factors include gross income, whether or not the applicant has a disability, or if the applicant is elderly or is the head of a family. They also look at any applicant’s citizenship status. Only U.S. citizens or immigrants who are eligible can receive housing aid. Immigrants that have a status of resident aliens or green card holders can apply in most cases.

Income Determination

Income will be closely looked at when applying for housing aid. There is a formula that the HUD looks at when determining the need for aid. Housing authorities can make certain deductions from an applicant’s gross income. Rent payments can be low, or they can be as high as 30% of the monthly adjusted income, once they factor in deductions. For Section 8 eligibility, the income is at 50% of your area’s median income. The HUD will use data from the American Community Survey and Census in order to calculate income figures yearly, which are based on the size of the family. You do need to provide documentation that prove your eligibility. Some documents include birth certificates, tax returns, and banking and employer information.

Where to Go for Aid

Even though there are different programs that are distinct, you can generally apply for them at the same place. Housing authorities use the same data for income eligibility and waiting list procedures for Section 8 and other public housing programs.

The first step is to contact the housing authority that covers your area. Most of them will accept applications at the same time for multiple programs.

In any area, you will be placed on a waiting list for one or more of the programs, and when they reach your name on the list, they will then determine your eligibility. Applying is the easy part; waiting is another story.  Unfortunately, getting on the waiting list doesn’t guarantee you assistance. Different housing authorities will give preference to the needier people, which can include the people living in poor quality housing, homeless people, or those that have to spend more than 50% of earnings on housing. Once your name comes up on the list, the housing authority will conduct an eligibility interview and start to go over your qualifications. One of the bigger issues with public housing is the wait. Some cities are still processing applications from a few years ago, while others have wait lists that are closed and you can only apply for certain housing options.

It’s important to keep geography in mind. Your eligibility will change from place to place. You may qualify for housing in one city but not another, and your ability to earn money can vary from city to city.