If you need assistance with housing costs, you may qualify for housing assistance through a federal program depending on your income and personal circumstances. 

Each assistance program will have its own eligibility requirements that must be met to receive benefits.  The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, provides rental assistance directly to a landlord on a participating tenant’s behalf, thus, reducing the amount that the tenant or family is expected to pay.

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Eligibility requirements include income guidelines, citizenship and lawful immigration status qualifications and categorical requirements. The Public Housing Program is similar to Section 8 in terms of eligibility requirements.

But rather than provide rental assistance directly to a landlord, participating families rent properties that are owned by the state at a reduced cost that is based upon income. 

If you are a current homeowner but you can no longer afford your mortgage payments, refinance options may be available to you to reduce your monthly mortgage payments and avoid the foreclosure on your home.

Finally, if you may become homeless, it is important to learn more about the homeless shelters within your community and what you may need to bring with you to the shelter. 

About the Public Housing Program

The Public Housing Program is a federal assistance program that provides safe, decent and affordable housing options to qualifying low-income households and families.

Applicants that are eligible for benefits are provided with a state-owned property to rent at a reduced cost compared to other rental properties within a community. 

In order to qualify for benefits, all household members must either be United States citizens or hold a lawful and qualifying immigration status. Additionally, households must meet income limits, which vary by county and metropolitan areas.

Benefits can only be granted to families and households that have an income of between 50 and 80 percent of the county or metropolitan area’s median income level. 

Lastly, benefits through the Public Housing Program can only be provided to households that are considered a family or households that have at least one qualifying disabled or elderly person. To be considered a family, at least one child younger than 18 years of age must reside within the home. 

You can apply for the Public Housing Program by contacting your local Public Housing Agency (PHA). As part of your application, you will be provided to supply certain documentation for yourself and each household member, including proof of income.

If your application is approved, you will either begin to receive benefits immediately or you will be placed on a waiting list based upon housing availability. 

Learn About the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)

The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a federal program that provides monetary rental assistance to qualifying families and households. Rental assistance is paid directly to participating landlords on the tenant’s behalf, therefore, reducing the amount of money that the household or family is responsible for paying each month.

Rental assistance amounts are based upon several factors, including household size and household income. 

Section 8 benefits can only be provided to U.S. citizens as well as legal immigrants with a qualifying immigration status. To receive benefits, a household’s income cannot exceed 50 percent of the metropolitan area or county’s median income.

However, it is also worth noting that, by law, the program must provide 75 percent of its housing vouchers to families and households with income levels that do not exceed 30 percent of the area’s median income. 

Similarly to the Public Housing Program, benefits from the Housing Choice Voucher Program can only be provided to households that contain at least one qualifying child younger than 18 years of age, senior citizen or disabled person. 

You can apply for assistance through Section 8 by contacting your local Public Housing Agency.

You will be asked to provide documentation to support your application, including proof of income for all household members. If your family or household is approved to receive benefits, you will either begin to receive benefits immediately (based upon availability) or your household will be placed on a waiting list for when benefits become available. 

Find Out About Other Ways to Get Help With Housing Costs

  1. Ask to Borrow Money. If you are finding it difficult to pay for rent, monthly mortgage or other expenses, you may want to ask for help. Friends and family might be more willing to help than strangers. However, it is crucial to establish the amount that you will repay and the repayment date to the other party. This keeps you in their good graces.
  2. Find a Roommate. If your landlord allows it, you can attempt to find a roommate. There are several websites available that can help you find a roommate. For instance, you can make a free account on roommates.com to find potential living companions.
  3. Get a Part-Time Job. If you have the time, you can try to get a part-time job. You can also ask for contract work. In this gig economy, there are many job options that can put some more cash in your pocket. Uber driver, Lyft driver and Survey taker are some of the gigs you can do for some extra money.

How can I avoid foreclosure if I can’t pay my mortgage?

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has several assistance programs designed to aid homeowners in the avoidance of a foreclosure on an existing home.

These programs generally reduce monthly payments, extend loan terms or may provide refinancing options. 

Eligibility requirements vary by program but may include qualifications such as income-related guidelines and mortgage-related requirements. In order to determine whether or not you qualify for assistance, you must contact a HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agency. 

What can I do if I’m about to become homeless?

If you are about to become homeless, it is crucial that you apply for rental assistance programs that you may qualify for, such as Section 8 or the Public Housing Program.

However, while awaiting benefits it is important to contact your state’s human or social services department to learn more about the homeless shelters within your local community. 

Most homeless shelters offer free services. However, some shelters can impose a small fee. The length of time that a shelter can provide you with a room can vary between shelters, so you should always contact your local shelter for further details.

Additionally, it is crucial that you make sure that you have your state identification card or driver’s license with you when you visit the homeless shelter. Most assistance programs and homeless shelters will require you to provide proof of your identification.

It is also worth knowing that shelter space is limited, and you will likely have a limit to the number of items that you can bring with you to the shelter. 

Learn About Additional Emergency Rental Assistance Resources

If you are in need of emergency rental assistance, you may qualify for additional resources. Additional assistance programs and resources are available to certain youths, senior citizens and veterans. 

If you are a veteran who is either homeless or facing homelessness, it is vital that you contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans hotline at (877) 424-3838.

You can also contact your local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) office to learn about any additional resources related to housing, health care, mental health services or employment that may be available to you. 

If you are younger than 18 years of age, you are encouraged to contact the National Runaway Safeline at (877) 786-2929. You may qualify for several assistance programs, including programs that can provide food, safe housing, education, survival aid, counseling and crisis intervention. 

If you are a senior citizen who is searching for affordable housing, you may benefit from using Eldercare Locator.

This organization provides detailed information, housing options and resources specific to senior citizens who meet income-related eligibility requirements.

Learn About Emergency Rental Assistance Resources