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Government Assisted Housing

Government housing assistance is available to low-income older adults through several programs in the form of affordable housing or rental assistance. It provides assistance to a majority of older renters who have excessive housing costs, and offers low-income elderly with service-enriched options to live independently.
Local public housing authorities (PHAs) administer most of the government housing assistance. Other contributors include the local Department of Housing and Community Development, State Housing Finance Agencies, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Development office. Funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and USDA's Rural Housing Services also support some housing assistance programs.
All government housing assistance for older adults are over-subscribed, with waiting lists varying in length.

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Types of Assistance

Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) Program

The Housing Choice Voucher program, administered locally by PHAs, provides very low-income families, older adults, and persons with disabilities affordable, decent, and sanitary housing in the private market. Participants are free to find their own housing that meets the requirements of the program. To locate a PHA, call HUD at 1-800-955-2232 or visit http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/public_indian_housing/pha/contacts.

Eligibility: In general, the household's income may not exceed 50 percent of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live. This is determined by the PHA based on the total annual gross income and family size, and is limited to U.S. citizens and specified categories of non-citizens. The local PHA can provide information about income limits for the area and family size.

Local Rental Assistance Programs

Local rental assistance may be available through the HOME Investment Partnership Program. Find a local Community Housing and Development office by visiting https://www.hudexchange.info/grantees/ or search for a local HUD office at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/localoffices.

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Public Housing

Public housing provides affordable, decent, and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, older adults, and persons with disabilities. Tenants typically pay no more than 30 percent of their monthly income for rent. Local federally funded PHAs own and operate public housing complexes. For more information about public housing and income limits, visit http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/rental_assistance/phprog. To locate a PHA, call HUD at 1-800-955-2232 or visit http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/public_indian_housing/pha/contacts.

Eligibility: Public housing is limited to low-income families and individuals. The local PHA determines the applicant's eligibility based on: 1) annual gross income; 2) status: age 62+, a person with a disability, or as a family; and, 3) U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status. If eligible, the PHA will check references to ensure that applicants and family members will be good tenants.

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Rural Housing Service (RHS) Rental Assistance Program (Section 521)

Rent subsidies under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's RHS Rental Assistance Program ensure that older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income residents of multi-family housing complexes financed by RHS are able to afford rent payments. Qualified applicants pay no more than 30 percent of their income for housing. To determine eligibility or apply, contact the Rural Development state office. Find your nearest office by calling the RHS national office at 202-720-4323.

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Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program

Through the Section 202 Program, private, nonprofit housing and service-oriented organizations receive capital advances from the government to construct and rehabilitate structures. These structures serve as supportive housing for very low-income older adults. The Program also provides rent subsidies for the projects to help make them affordable. Supportive services provided under the Section 202 Program include meals, transportation, and accommodations for residents with disabilities. To learn more, find a PHA by calling HUD at 1-800-955-2232 or visit http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/public_indian_housing/pha/contacts.
Eligibility: The program benefits low-income residents age 62 years and older.

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Selection Preferences

PHAs sometimes give preference to specific groups of individuals or families. This enables them to direct limited housing resources to people with the greatest needs. Since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the resources available to HUD and the local PHAs, long waiting periods are common. It is common for a PHA to close its waiting list when there are more people on the list than can be assisted in the near future. Examples of local housing preferences for providing assistance include:

  • People experiencing high rent burden (rent is greater than 50 percent of income)
  • Residents who live and/or work in the jurisdiction
  • People who are homeless or living in substandard housing
  • Veterans and their families
  • Victims of reprisals or hate crimes
  • Working families
  • People who are unable to work because of age or disability

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Additional Information

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Last Modified: 10/15/2015 10:23:16 AM