Getting Started with Affordable Housing

In today’s challenging real estate market, finding a roof over your head that’s both affordable and decent housing is a key concern for many. Rising living costs make this even more difficult. This article is your guide through the various affordable housing options available. It sheds light on programs like Section 8, public housing, and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. These programs are crucial for those of low income seeking affordable housing solutions. We will explore the details and benefits of each program, helping you understand how they can fit into your housing plans.

Introduction to Affordable Housing Solutions

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, commonly known as HUD, plays a pivotal role in the nation’s urban development and housing sector. At its core, HUD’s goal is to improve the quality of life for residents in urban and rural areas across the nation. Its main programs include Section 8, which gives vouchers for housing, and public housing, which offers government-owned homes. Additionally, the department administers programs aimed at community development and providing affordable housing options. Furthermore, HUD is responsible for enforcing fair housing laws, ensuring non-discrimination in housing practices across the United States.

A Closer Look at Public Housing Options

Public housing is a key program set up to provide secure rental choices for eligible families and individuals. It includes various types of homes, like scattered single-family houses and tall apartment buildings. About 3,300 Housing Agencies (HAs) run these homes, helping around 970,000 households in the U.S.


Eligibility for public housing is determined based on:

  • Your yearly income.
  • Whether you are elderly, have a disability, or are part of a family.
  • You need to be a U.S. citizen or have the right immigration status.

Application Process

To apply, contact your local HA. The application usually asks for:

  • Names, ages, and family ties.
  • Your current address and phone number.
  • Personal or family details that might give you an edge in getting a home.
  • Info about your current and past landlords.
  • How much money you expect to make in the next year.
  • Info about your job and bank to check your income and family size.

Lease Agreement and Rent

If you get a house or apartment, you need to sign a lease with the HA and might pay a security deposit. Your rent, called the Total Tenant Payment (TTP), depends on your family’s income and certain deductions.  The TTP is determined by the highest of the following:

  • 30% of your monthly income after deductions.
  • 10% of your monthly income.
  • Welfare rent, if it applies.
  • A minimum rent set by the HA.

How Long You Can Stay

You can usually stay in public housing as long as you follow the lease rules. If your family makes enough money for a regular market home, the HA might check if you still need public housing.

Exploring the Housing Choice Voucher Program

The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, aims to help low-income households afford good and safe housing. This program lets people choose their own homes, like single-family houses, townhouses, and apartments. It’s not just limited to places in housing projects.

Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) in local areas manage the voucher program. These agencies get money from the HUD to run it. When a family gets a voucher, they need to find a suitable home where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This home should meet certain health and safety standards.

Keep in Mind

The program pays a part of the rent directly to the landlord. The family then pays the difference between the full rent and the amount the program covers. In some cases, the program can even help a family buy a modest house.

To be eligible, your family’s yearly income, family size, and citizenship or immigration status matter. Generally, your income can’t be more than 50% of the median income in your area. PHAs must give most of their vouchers to families whose income is not more than 30% of the median income. These income limits change based on where you live.

Applying for the Program

When you apply, the PHA will ask about your income, savings, and who lives in your family. They will check this info with your job, bank, and other places. This helps them decide if you’re eligible and how much help you can get. If you’re eligible, the PHA might put you on a waiting list or help you right away. When your turn comes, they’ll give you a voucher.

What to Know About the Emergency Rental Assistance Program

While programs like Section 8 and public housing are well-known, other programs can offer significant help too. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERA) is one such program. This program also aims to help those who are low-income faced the risk of losing their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.


In 2021, states began using federal money from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to run the ERA. This funding was approved by two big laws: the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (ERA 1: $25 billion) and the American Rescue Plan Act (ERA 2: $21.66 billion). These laws aimed to help people keep their homes during the tough times caused by the pandemic.

ERA Program Details

  • ERA 1: Ended on September 30, 2022, and gave $25 billion for rent and housing stability help.
  • ERA 2: Will go on until September 30, 2025, offering $21.66 billion for similar help and to prevent evictions. Some states have used up all their ERA 1 and ERA 2 money and have closed their programs to new people. Other states are still running their programs with ERA 2 money until it runs out or the program ends.


The ERA programs have given over $46 billion to keep people in their homes during the pandemic. Governments have used this money to help more than 10 million renters avoid eviction. Studies show that these programs have been especially helpful for low-income renters and renters of color. Along with other efforts by the government, the ERA programs have stopped millions of evictions since the pandemic began.

How the Money is Given Out

The money goes directly to states, territories, local governments, and sometimes to Indian Tribes or their housing groups. This direct way of giving out money makes sure it gets to the people who need it.


Understanding your options in affordable housing can make a big difference. Programs like Section 8, public housing, and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program are not just about money. They bring hope and a stable place to live. These programs help families, older adults, and people with disabilities find homes that fit their needs. Knowing about these programs is important in facing housing challenges. We encourage you to look into these options and talk to the right people. Affordable housing is more than just a plan; it’s a step toward a better life.