Keeping up with the constant rise of prices for everyday necessities is getting more difficult for many Americans. Among the biggest expenses is housing. According to experts, households should not spend more than 30% of their gross income on housing. Families that spend more than 30% on housing may find themselves cost-burdened. Being cost-burdened may cause some of these families to sacrifice when it comes to other necessities such as healthcare and education. For that reason, families need to find affordable housing options.
Thankfully, there is a long list of options when it comes to affordable housing. These options don’t only come through government-backed programs, they may also come from other sources. This article will focus on discussing some of those affordable housing options and how to access them.
Let’s Talk About What Affordable Housing Means
It’s important to understand that affordable housing is different for everyone. To begin, you’ll need to understand your finances. That means you’ll need to be aware of how much you earn every month. The 30% affordable housing term applies to your gross income. Gross income is the money you make before taxes (and other expenses) are deducted from it. Let’s say you work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week. That equals 40 hours a week. Let’s also assume you make $20 an hour which is $800 a week. If you work four weeks a month, you’d be making a gross income of $3,200 a month. In that case, affordable housing would be capped at .30 x $3,200 which is $960 a month. Realistically, that’s difficult to achieve, since the average asking rent is $1,900 per month as of August 2022. This is where affordable housing comes into play.
The Types Of Affordable Housing Options You Can Find
There are plenty of affordable housing opportunities out there. You just need to find the right one that fits your situation. For now, we’ll discuss the following options:
This program was created thanks to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). However, the Housing Choice Voucher program is run locally by public housing authorities (PHAs). The program, also known as Section 8, aims to provide an affordable housing solution to those who qualify for it. These vouchers can help renters handle the cost of housing in the private market.
Among the many perks of the program, it offers eligible voucher holders the freedom to choose whichever housing unit fits their situation. However, the housing units they choose must accept these vouchers as a form of payment. On top of that, PHAs will be conducting inspections on these housing units to make sure they’re up to standard. These standards may vary from one PHA to another.
Things To Keep In Mind
Eligibility is essential for receiving benefits through the Section 8 program. As we’ve already mentioned, the Housing Choice Voucher program is run separately by different PHAs. These PHAs may have different requirements for eligibility. However, there are four main eligibility requirements that applicants will need to satisfy to qualify for the program:
- Citizenship status
- Income level
- Eviction history
- Household size
Keep in mind that your household size and income level are directly related. These two aspects will heavily influence your chances of receiving benefits through Section 8 housing. Let’s compare an individual who makes $15,000 to a household of four that makes the same amount per year. Their income levels are not the same since there are fewer people to spend the money on as an individual compared to a whole family.
Should you decide to apply for Section 8 housing, you should head straight to your local PHA. PHAs will not only handle your application but will also answer any questions regarding the program. You should keep in mind that if your Section 8 housing application was accepted, you’ll usually be placed on a waitlist, which can often take years to get off of.
Among the list of affordable housing programs that the HUD provides, public housing is a popular one. The whole idea behind public housing is to provide affordable housing to qualifying low-income households. Although the HUD created this program, it is the responsibility of local housing agencies (HAs) to run it. As a result, eligibility requirements may vary depending on the area where you live. You can expect the requirements to revolve around your:
- Annual gross income
- Family status
- Citizenship status
If your application is approved, HAs will confirm with your references to ensure you and your family will be good tenants. However, HAs are not obligated to accept your application even if you meet all the requirements. They may have reservations regarding your habits or practices that can potentially hurt other public housing recipients if your references don’t check out.
Not all affordable housing opportunities will come through the HUD. Supportive housing is a great example of how you can receive affordable housing through other means. These are some of the supportive housing options you may find:
- Emergency Shelters
- Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
- Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)
- Transitional Shelters
There comes a time in some people’s lives when disaster strikes, which may cause them to become homeless. Emergency shelters are here to serve these people. The idea behind these shelters is to provide immediate support to families who go through such disasters. The idea is to provide short-term support that may help them achieve stability until they move on to the next phase of their lives. The kind of support families receive through these shelters may vary from one shelter to another. Keep in mind that different shelters provide different lengths of stay to these families.
Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
This affordable housing solution focuses on those struggling with chronic homelessness. In order for an individual to be considered as chronically homeless, they must live in:
- Housing that is not fit for a decent living (for a minimum of 12 months.)
- Emergency Shelters (for a minimum of 12 months.)
- Safe havens (for a minimum of 12 months.)
- Institutional care facilities (for a maximum of 90 days and also have lived in the options listed above before going to the facility.)
The program doesn’t only provide safe housing, it also offers a wide variety of supportive services. PSH is a “housing first solution” that focuses on providing support to those in need as soon as possible, helping them to rediscover their independence.
Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)
RRH is a supportive housing solution that focuses on giving immediate housing to those in need. This program is also one of those “housing first solutions.” However, this program does not focus on the chronically homeless, instead, it helps people who don’t usually deal with homelessness. Those people are often referred to as non-chronic homelessness and should seek out help through RRH.
This is the last entry on our list of available supportive housing opportunities. While this program offers temporary support, it can still be long-term. The length of stay in transitional shelters can generally range from six months to 24 months. Exactly how long a tenant can stay in one of these shelters is up to the shelter itself. These shelters assist homeless individuals. On top of that, transitional shelters also offer supportive services to those in need. These services include healthcare, employment support, and more.
Let’s Wrap Things Up
It’s no secret that times are tough when it comes to finances. The average person in America has so many bills and expenses they need to look after. Among the biggest of these bills is housing. The HUD’s definition of affordable housing is that people should spend no more than 30% of their gross income on housing. The government and other organizations have several affordable housing opportunities in place to help people out. For this article, we focused on three main types of affordable housing solutions.
On top of all the affordable housing assistance mentioned above, there’s assistance that you can find through other means like non-profit organizations, such as 211.org and Habitat for Humanity. You have more options than you may realize! A great place to start is at your local PHA and you can go from there.