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Where to Find Housing Assistance

For many people, needing assistance with rent or with finding a place to live is a real possibility. And many of us are one expensive emergency away from needing that help. The good news is that there are resources available to you no matter what state you live in.

Find housing and rent assistance from your state
Tough financial times can make it difficult for low-income families to meet the cost of housing. As a result, the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Public Housing Authority (PHA) in each state provide two housing options to low-income state residents. Section-8 and Low-Rent programs provide affordable housing based on available funds and the family’s household size and income. To apply for emergency low-income housing, you must go through the PHA for your county.

Find your local Public Housing Agency (PHA) here.

How to apply:

  • If your family cannot afford to pay the rent, contact your local PHA.
  • Locate and click the link to your county’s PHA website from the list on the HUD California Housing Authorities website.
  • Verify your county’s procedure for applying for low-income housing. Not all counties allow you to apply online. Certain counties have wait lists and, if the wait lists are closed, the county is not accepting applications at that time.
  • Gather documents that contain your personal information and income. Personal information that is required to complete an application includes your Social Security number, date of birth, and driver’s license or state I.D. number. Provide information on all income sources on your application, such as wages, tips, child support, unemployment, Social Security and self-employment.
  • Fill out the application online, if available. If an online application is not available, certain agencies offer a printable application, which you can fill out and mail. If neither option is available, you must contact the PHA and complete an application with an agent in person.
  • If your family is homeless, contact your local PHA immediately. Certain counties have emergency funds available, even though applications for housing are closed.

In addition to the federal rental assistance, homeownership and home buying assistance programs, there may be programs sponsored by your state or local government or other organizations that can help you. Check here to search your state.

Federal Rental Assistance
Federal rental assistance
 helps over 5 million low-income households to afford modest homes. Applicants can earn no more than the government income limit.

Three major programs assist about 90% of these households:

  • Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers
  • Privately owned subsidized housing/low rent apartments
  • Public Housing

Income Limit Guidelines

  • Very low-income: 50% of the MFI (Median Family Income) for that specific area, subject to specified adjustments for areas with unusually high or low incomes relative to housing costs.
  • Low-income: 80% of the MFI for that specific area, subject to adjustments for areas with unusually high or low incomes or housing costs.
  • Extremely low-income: 60% of the four-person family very low-income limit, adjusted for family size, but not allowed to fall below the poverty line.
  • Income limits are adjusted for family size so that larger families have higher income limits.

Federal programs

  • Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)
    • Find your own place and use the voucher to pay for all or part of the rent. The Section 8 program allows private landlords to rent apartments and homes at fair market rates to qualified low income tenants, with a rental subsidy administered by Home Forward. “Section 8” is a common name for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
    • How to get on Section 8: Check whether your local PHAs are accepting applications.
  • Privately owned subsidized housing
    • The government gives funds directly to apartment owners, who lower the rents they charge low-income tenants. You can find low-rent apartments for senior citizens and people with disabilities, as well as for families and individuals.
  • Public Housing
    • Affordable apartments for low-income families, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single-family houses to high rise apartments for elderly families. There are approximately 1.2 million households living in public housing units, managed by some 3,300 HAs.
    • Who is eligible? Public housing is limited to low-income families and individuals.
    • An HA determines your eligibility based on:
      • Annual gross income
      • Whether you qualify as elderly, a person with a disability, or as a family
      • U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status.
    • If you are eligible, the HA will check your references to make sure you and your family will be good tenants. HAs will deny admission to any applicant whose habits and practices may be expected to have a detrimental effect on other tenants or on the project’s environment.

Other programs

HUD’s Office of Native American Programs (ONAP)
ONAP administers housing and community development programs that benefit American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments, tribal members, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Native Hawaiians, and other Native American organizations.

Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) program
The Indian Housing Block Grant Program (IHBG) is a grant that provides a range of affordable housing activities on Indian reservations and Indian areas.

  • Eligible IHBG recipients are federally recognized Indian tribes or their tribally designated housing entity (TDHE), and a limited number of state-recognized tribes.
  • An eligible tribe must submit to HUD an Indian Housing Plan (IHP) each year to receive funding. At the end of each year, recipients must submit to HUD an Annual Performance Report (APR) reporting on their progress in meeting the goals and objectives included in their IHPs.
  • Eligible activities include housing development, assistance to housing developed under the Indian Housing Program, housing services to eligible families and individuals, crime prevention and safety, and model activities that provide creative approaches to solving affordable housing problems.

The Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant (NHHBG) program
The use of NHHBG funds is limited to eligible affordable housing activities for low-income (not exceeding 80% of the median income for the area) native Hawaiians eligible to reside on Hawaiian Home Lands.

  • Eligible activities include new construction, rehabilitation, acquisition, infrastructure, and various support services. Housing can be either rental or homeownership.
  • NHHBG funds can also be used for certain types of community facilities if the facilities serve eligible residents of affordable housing.
  • In order to qualify for an annual grant, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is required to submit proposed activities in an annual Native Hawaiian Housing Plan to HUD for review. Grant funds are then made available to the DHHL.
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