Resource Topic: Housing Assistance »

I need an apartment but cannot afford one?

Apartments for people with disabilities can generally be divided into two main areas, subsidized and unsubsidized. These classifications are income dependent with "subsidized" referencing housing for people needing governmental assistance in order to pay the rent and have a place of their own in which to live. "On Housing" or "Housing Assistance" are terms people will sometimes use when referring to people or programs that are subsidized which reduces the rent individuals pay and makes the home affordable for them. Usually people with disabilities on subsidies have low income and derive their income from one or a combination of programs from Social Security such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disabled Adult Child (SSDAC). Others may not have qualified for Social Security or have an application pending so are using General Assistance a program offering subsistence income.
For persons receiving Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), or who have other types of income available to them, such as through a trust, a housing subsidy may or may not be the best option. If you want to do some quick math you can figure what a third of your income (amount of rent commonly required to be paid by person on program) and then compare it to what likely apartments in your community would cost (market rent). Generally housing assistance will pay the difference between a third of your total monthly income after some allowable expenses such as medical expenses are adjusted for (reduces income) and the market rate for the apartment. If you find a third of your income is much higher than the market rent, housing assistance may not be the best option for you because you may have to pay more. If the amounts are close or you have a number of costs related to your disability go to your housing office and ask the staff to help you decide if housing assistance is the best option. Your local Housing Authority staff can insure you are taking advantage of all the offsets you may qualify for. If you have any questions “just call Options” 800.726.3692.

What programs are available through housing assistance and how do I apply?

There are many types of housing assistance dependent on where you live (rural vs. urban), type of living arrangement needed (long term or short term), the Federal or State program the builder used to secure the funding in order to build the building and type of housing i.e., single family, apartment, townhouse, or condo. The differences between these programs are not generally helpful in this context so will not be discussed in great detail. What is important for the consumer to know is usually housing can be divided into two main categories; subsidies tied to the apartment complex, "Certificate" and subsidies provided to consumers to purchase apartments within the open market, "Voucher." Subsidies tied to a particular building "Certificates" are commonly provided by public entities such as a city, or by private investors that have used public funds to build the apartment complex utilizing low interest loans or other types of concessions from the Government in exchange for the owners requirement to provide a preset number of subsidies tied to units within the complex. The other common type of program offers "Vouchers", these are commonly offered by Cities through their Housing offices though some not for profits have vouchers available for a particular class of people they serve. Vouchers pay for any apartment within a geographic area of the Housing Office which meet the minimum standards for safety and have rental amounts within a threshold set for the region by HUD. Both programs pay the owners the difference between what the renter is required to pay (one third of the low income renter's monthly income offset by certain allowable expenses) and the market rate for the apartment.

Some major considerations for the consumer too address in order to insure the program fulfills your needs is to look at how long you plan to live within the apartment you're interested in renting and how immediate your need for Housing Assistance is. Generally it is quicker to get a Certificate than a Voucher, the Voucher having longer waiting lists with preset priorities within many communities. A strong incentive for waiting for a Voucher is that these are very portable and offer users the best opportunities in the future if they would find they have to move to another location or are planning on moving to another location. The only static residency requirement for vouchers is that you remain in your first residence for one full year prior to moving when you first are granted a Voucher. After living in the apartment for a year you may move and use your voucher to rent another apartment as long as the apartment is within the market value for the area and is habitable (meets HUDs standards). Since a Certificate is attached to the unit or complex you will lose your housing assistance when you move away thus causing you to reapply if you have need for an additional subsidy. One of the problems inherent to Housing Assistance for people already receiving a Certificate is that they may never qualify for another program while on a program. This is because most lists have priorities to protect the most vulnerable, homeless children and vulnerable adults, and people that fulfill a priority such as these may be able to jump ahead of people who have a subsidy, safe place to live, which meet their accessibility needs. Generally speaking the Voucher gives a person greater ability to move and may also give a person a way they can purchase their own home at some point.

Usually the best place to start is through your local Housing Authority to find out more about their particular programs and eligibility, many of the programs are open competition so different housing offices may manage different programs dependent on what they have been awarded. Based on the programs they manage they can provide you with a listing of the units they lease using Certificates as well as the number of people on the waiting list for Vouchers. Additionally, many know of other apartment units separate from them that carry their own subsidies so you can get this listing to see which meet your needs.

Here is a link that explains the programs in greater detail ( http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/housing_choice_voucher_program_section_8 )

Where do I apply for housing assistance?

The easiest way to find your local housing authority is to conduct a search on the internet using the terms "housing assistance" followed by your location. If not part of a larger city use the county and state you reside in. You can also follow the following link to use HUD's web site to search for a housing office near you, http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/public_indian_housing/pha/contacts

If you need assistance please call Options (800) 726.3692. Many housing offices also have on line application processes available for people making it much easier for people to apply.

What do I need to put together in order to apply for housing assistance?

In order to make application you will have to have various types of personal information available to you in order to complete the application. The types of information usually includes Legal names and social security numbers of all the potential residents that will be living with you including children, income of each person, identification, if you have a disability a Social Security Administration (SSA) document such as a letter of determination proving you receive some sort of SSA payment such as Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), Social Security Disabled Adult Child (SSDAC) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), recent rental history that includes names of places and contact information of managers, your financial assets, outstanding and recurring medical cost information that will adversely affect your income. As part of the information gathered the housing authority may also check your credit history and do a criminal back ground check.

Can I use a Voucher to purchase my own home?

If you qualify for and obtain a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, you can use the HUD subsidy to purchase a home via the Homeownership Voucher Program, as long as your local public housing authority participates. The voucher generally makes up the difference between 30 percent of your median income and your monthly mortgage payment. If the home you purchase has a higher monthly payment that is above the limit set for your geographic area you would have to pay the excess.  However most PHAs may set limits on the price of a home you can purchase through the program to ensure prospective homeowners do not get into a property they cannot afford based on their monthly expenses and income.  As part of the program you may have to participate in classes that cover home ownership and saving strategies in order for you to cover  expected and unexpected expenses that may come up while owning a home i.e., lawn mowing and water heaters breaking, respectively. 

One of the keys is to make sure that the housing program that covers the community you would like to live in actually has adopted the program. In areas where the local housing authority has not adopted the program Options has successfully advocated for them to adopt the program, call us on how you can conduct advocacy. Additionally if you want assistance on the mechanics of the program and how to use it “Just call Options” 800.726.3692.