Seniors often face significant challenges in finding safe, affordable housing. The triple-headed monster of high health care costs, limited mobility, and limited or fixed incomes compound the problem! Being a low income senior is much more common than most people realize.
The good news for seniors is that there is rental assistance for seniors in need. There are a variety of programs available from local, state, and federal government entities. Non-profit organizations and faith-based organizations also have help available.
There are housing solutions for seniors with annual incomes as low as $20,000 to $30,000 a year and even lower. There are also affordable housing options for seniors with incomes up to $40,000. That may not seem like low income but in this environment of ever-increasing housing costs, just meeting housing and health care costs can consume much of a $40,000 income. Don’t assume you won’t qualify. Keep working the problem until you find a solution. The standards are always changing.
- 1 Government Rental Assistance
- 2 What kind of help is available?
- 3 How do I qualify for assistance?
- 4 The application process
- 5 What about assisted living arrangements?
- 6 Where do I turn for more help?
- 7 Minimum standards for senior housing
- 8 Once once you start the process
- 9 Conclusion
Government Rental Assistance
Federal Rental Assistance Program
Federal rental assistance is administered by HUD – the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD has prepared a page on rental assistance that can get you started on the path to help. It is a great place to start your education and begin your research.
State Rental Assistance Programs
In addition to the federal rental assistance, home ownership and home buying assistance programs, there may be programs sponsored by your state or local government or other organizations that can help you. You can navigate to your state by clicking this link to HUD’s local information page.
What about non-profit and faith-based organizations?
A church leader once told me that churches are great for short-term help but that they fall short over the long haul. I have found that to be true. Churches may also have some funds available for housing expenses or they could indicate to renters the way to get help. For short term rent assistance look to your local community for places that help pay rent, including non-profits and charities.
What kind of help is available?
Public Housing is affordable apartments for low-income families, the elderly and persons with disabilities. To apply, contact a public housing agency.
Many seniors do not realize that HUD has a program to provide funds to apartment owners to set aside a certain portion of their units for low-income seniors at a lower than market rate. Housing of this type is referred to a privately owned subsidized housing. The best way to find out about a low-rent apartment is to visit the management office of the apartment complex. You can search for resources here.
Housing Choice Voucher Program
As opposed to affordable housing programs, housing voucher programs, such as the Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly “Section 8” program) run by HUD, involve rental assistance for private market rental units. In the Housing Choice Voucher Program, you find your own place and use the voucher to pay for all or part of the rent. To apply, contact a public housing agency.
How do I qualify for assistance?
Most programs at both the state and federal level have eligibility requirements. To be eligible for affordable housing, a senior must be sixty-two or older and must have an annual income that’s no more than the “Lower Income” limit for the geographical area. The Lower Income limits are published annually by HUD. The local PHA – Public Housing Agency – determines the exact eligibility requirements. You can find PHA contact information on HUD’s PHA contact information page.
The application process
The application process is another area that might try your patience. You are going to need to provide proof that you are eligible for the program you are seeking. Be prepared to provide the following:
- Wages, salaries, tips, and bonuses
- Net income from a business
- Interest, dividends, and other net income from real estate
- Social Security, annuities, insurance policies, retirement funds, pensions, disability, or death benefits
- Unemployment, worker’s compensation, severance pay, etc.
- Alimony or child support
- Regular contributions or gifts from persons not residing with the applicant
What about assisted living arrangements?
HUD senior housing does not include assisted living services. When you apply for and receive low-income housing services, you are only receiving assistance with paying your rent. This does not include payment for food and medical care. As for assisted living services, if you need help paying for these, consider the Assisted Living Conversion Program or ALCP. This program helps seniors age in place, which means they are allowed to live in HUD senior apartments while receiving medical assistance. The ALCP is not available in all states, however. The Assisted Living Directory website can help you find out if your state is one where it is available.
Where do I turn for more help?
Remember, you are not alone on this journey. If you’ve read this far, now is not the time to be prideful. Following is a summary of where you can begin looking today.
Federal rental information
HUD has help and counseling available. Contact a housing counseling agency or call toll-free (800) 569-4287. It is a federal program and should be unbiased.
State and local rental information
In addition to the federal rental assistance, home ownership and home buying assistance programs, there may be programs sponsored by your state or local government or other organizations that can help you Click here to find help state-by-state.
Other sources of information
The big thing when you need help is to decide to not suffer in silence. Get on the phone and start asking questions! Here’s a place to begin:
- The HUD numbers listed above
- You local senior center
- The Local council on aging
- Your church leader
Minimum standards for senior housing
You deserve to feel safe and secure in your surroundings. The website FindLaw.com outlines that adequate housing for seniors should, at a minimum, meet the following criteria:
- It should be located in a safe area and within close proximity to means of transportation, grocery stores, and health care facilities
- It should be structurally sound, have adequate heating, air conditioning, and ventilation, and meet all housing, health and safety code requirements
- It should have accommodations for mobility issues or other disabilities (ramps, handrails, etc.), or should be able to be modified for such accommodations
- It should cost no more than 30% of a senior’s income
Once once you start the process
At first glance, the search for help may seem overwhelming. Good records will make the task seem less daunting. Record the contact names and phone numbers in one place. Record each interaction with every contact. Start a finances folder if you don’t have one already. Keep our records in order so you can respond to inquiries in a timely manner.
Once accepted into a program, keep copies of your paperwork and ongoing correspondence in case any questions arise. It is also important to stay familiar with the program’s guidelines that made you eligible in the beginning, so that you do not inadvertently lose the assistance.
Without being melodramatic, the time to get started is now. A little effort (or sometimes even a lot of effort) can have a profound effect on your quality of life as you age. There is help available; you just have to find it. Get on the phone today. Don’t get discouraged. Start calling and keep calling until you find help. If someone tells you they can’t help, ask them who they know that might be able to help. Please, do not suffer in silence.
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