A lot of people have a hard time getting housing that works for their budget and affordable housing can be different for everyone. However, the United States Department of Urban Development (HUD) has a definition of what affordable housing should be. According to their definition, a household shouldn’t spend over 30% of their gross monthly income on housing expenses like rent and utilities. If you are struggling with housing expenses, then you want to get on the path to affordable housing!
Know Your Budget First
Before you achieve affordable housing, you need to have a clear understanding of what your budget is. This can help you properly understand what you’re working with to set your goals. First, you want to look at your income every month. For example, let’s say you make $16 an hour and work 40 hours a week. At four weeks in a month, you would be making $2,560 a month. If you aim for affordable housing, you would need to spend no more than $768 a month on housing expenses. Now that you know your budget, it’s time to see what resources may be able to help point you in the right direction.
Resources to Start Towards Affordable Housing
Once you have a solid understanding of what it means for your budget to have affordable housing, you can begin to look into different resources that may be able to help. Some popular resources that can help people with their housing needs include:
There are countless different programs available from the government. That is why benefits.gov aims to help users access information on over 1,000 government benefits. This site understands that there are a lot of programs to go over. They have the tools to help! One of their best tools is the Benefit Finder tool. This allows users to fill out a questionnaire to find out what program may be the best fit for their current situation.
With the Benefit Finder tool, a user would need to fill out details like their date of birth, citizenship status, household details, annual income, and more. While a user doesn’t have to fill out all the information, the more details they provide, the better results they will see! Once the user is done with the questionnaire, the tool will show programs that the user may be eligible for, as well as details on where to apply. The tool cannot guarantee whether or not a program will be able to help. The only way for a user to see if they would qualify for benefits is by applying.
Besides using the Benefit Finder tool, users can also look for programs by either the agency or category. For example, those in need of housing support can look under the category of Housing and Public Utilities or the agency of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Many people don’t realize that there may be more support at the local level than they think. That’s when 211.org can be a helpful tool. This resource gives people the chance to check out information on local services that could lend a helping hand to their situation. While the website can provide information on a variety of support like healthcare, food, etc., it can specifically help those with affordable housing. In 2021, 4.3 million connections were made that helped either reduce or prevent housing insecurity (and homelessness).
When you turn to your local 211 for support, you can expect them to help you find assistance to handle housing costs like utility bills, rent, mortgage payments, etc. You want to make sure you know details about your current situation. This information can help those at your local 211 provide the best guidance for your specific situation.
Your Local Public Housing Authority (PHA)
Besides the resources listed above, another great place to go is your local PHA. This is an agency that is in charge of administering and managing programs from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) like the Housing Choice Voucher Program and Public Housing. They can provide you with information and help with the application process for specific housing support opportunities.
Different Affordable Housing Options to Consider
Now that you know some resources to check out, you also want to keep in mind some specific opportunities for affordable housing. We mentioned the Housing Choice Voucher Program and Public Housing above, but there is also the opportunity for supportive housing.
Housing Choice Voucher Program
This program also goes by the name of Section 8. This is a program available thanks to HUD. However, even though it is a HUD program, it is managed locally by PHAs. The goal of this program is to provide decent, sanitary, and safe housing in the private market to recipients that qualify. Qualifications look at income level, citizenship status, family status, and more. However, the specifics will vary by area. Applicants of this program can generally expect to be put on a waitlist. That’s because there are so many people in need of support yet not enough supply to handle the demand.
Once applicants receive their vouchers, they will need to find a property to move into in the private market. It’s important to note that not every property accepts these vouchers as a form of payment. Besides that, the properties need to pass an inspection done by the local PHA. If the property is good for the recipients, then they can move in. Their local PHA will pay the landlord the voucher directly on behalf of the tenant. The tenants will then have the responsibility of covering any remaining difference left over from the price of rent and the voucher amount. There are some PHAs that gives recipients the chance to use the vouchers towards buying a home as well!
Another housing support opportunity from HUD is Public Housing. This program provides government-owned units to qualifying recipients at a rent they can afford. When most people think of public housing, they only think of apartments. However, it can come in other forms as well! For example, there can be public housing in the form of single-family homes. The eligibility criteria for this program include family status, income level, and citizenship status. Another important factor to keep in mind is references.
Local housing agencies (HAs) will look at references when determining if an applicant qualifies. Those that don’t have good references may find themselves ineligible. Local HAs use these references to see if the applicant would make a good tenant of the community and neighbor to other tenants.
If you qualify to benefit from this program, you can view your local HA as your landlord. That means you would be a tenant of their property so you would need to sign a lease with them. You may even need to provide a security deposit! To get more information or begin the application process, you will want to get in touch with your local HA. For even more assistance you can get in touch with your local HUD Field Office.
There are a variety of people that can find themselves in need of affordable housing, which includes people facing homelessness. However, those that are dealing with homelessness may be able to benefit from different types of supportive housing. Some common types of this housing include:
- Emergency Shelters
- Transitional Shelters
- Rapid Re-Housing
- Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
When people need a solution quickly when dealing with homelessness, emergency shelters should be one of the first places to consider. That’s because these shelters can provide short-term stability. One of the benefits that come along with these shelters is that they can help people find long-term solutions for their housing situation. How long people will be able to stay in these shelters varies depending on the shelter.
This type of supportive housing opportunity can typically provide people with a longer support solution. The amount of time that a person can stay in these shelters will vary depending on the shelter. However, people will usually be able to stay for six months to 24 months. This opportunity can provide helpful supportive services that can give aid to those staying in this type of housing.
Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)
A type of “housing first solution” support opportunity is RRH. This type of housing aims to help those that normally don’t deal with homelessness. The reason that this is a “housing first solution” is that it aims to help people as quickly as possible. Through this housing opportunity, people have the chance to rent an apartment on their own while receiving temporary community supportive services.
Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
Last but not least on the list of different types of supportive housing is PSH. This type of housing opportunity is also a type of “housing first solution.” That means it aims to help people as quickly as possible while properly addressing the issues of those they are trying to help. This supportive housing opportunity specifically focuses on people that chronically deal with homelessness. To meet the HUD definition of chronically homeless, a person must meet at least one of the following:
- Live in a place that is not fit for people to live in (for a total of at least one year)
- Live in a Safe Haven (for a total of at least one year)
- Live in an emergency shelter (for a total of at least one year)
- Live in an Institutional Care Facility (for at most 90 days as well as had lived in any of the other options on this list before entering the Institutional Care Facility)
Affordable Housing Tips to Keep in Mind
While programs and resources are great when it comes to getting affordable housing, there are some tips that you can follow that let you take matters into your own hands. Some tips that can help you get affordable housing include:
- Get a Roommate
- Think About the Location
Get a Roommate
One of the best ways to make housing more affordable is by getting at least one roommate. Think about it like this. Let’s say that a one-bedroom apartment is $1,600. However, a two-bedroom apartment is $2,400 and a three-bedroom apartment is $3,000. If you got one roommate and moved into a two-bedroom apartment, you could end up only being responsible for paying one-half of the rent which would be $1,200. That is $400 less than if you decided to rent your own one-bedroom apartment. You could even take it a step further and get two roommates and move into the three-bedroom apartment. That means each person could only be responsible for $1,000 each which would mean you pay $600 less than moving in on your own! Besides that, you may be able to see additional savings if you split other household bills like utilities, groceries, and more.
Think About the Location
If you don’t have to stay in a specific area for any reason, then you should consider different locations when picking where to live. The location of a housing unit can make a big difference in terms of how much you will need to pay. For example, a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, New York is $4,200 as of July 2022. However, a one-bedroom apartment in Little Rock, Arkansas is $788 as of July 2022. So–you need to think about why you are moving to a specific area and if you have the flexibility to move to affordable places.
Additional Support Opportunities to Consider
You may also be able to benefit from other assistance programs even if they can’t directly provide affordable housing! For example, through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) you may be able to save $400 a month on groceries. That savings can go towards other bills of yours like housing! This is why it is important to check out other federal programs that may be able to provide some relief like:
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
- Lifeline Program
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
When trying to find housing that’s affordable for your budget, it can be frustrating. However, there are resources and support opportunities that can help. Some resources include:
- Your Local Public Housing Authority (PHA)
Besides these resources, some specific housing opportunities to consider include:
- Housing Choice Voucher Program
- Public Housing
- Supportive Housing
On top of all of that, you may even be able to improve the affordability of your housing by getting a roommate and finding a cheaper area to move to if you aren’t tied down to a specific location. You may also be able to benefit from other assistance programs. There are a variety of opportunities available that can make it easier for you to get on the path toward affordable housing.