Affordable Housing Online is monitoring the federal government's response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. As of March 13, 2020, Public Housing Agencies across the nation are closing their doors to the public. Most offices are still running and will communicate by phone, email, or mail. Some offices have drop boxes installed outside, so documents can still be hand-delivered. Visit the housing authority's website for the latest on its current operations, if one is available. If there is no information online, contact the housing authority directly. Due to a high volume of calls and modified office hours in most areas, expect a long wait time (days or weeks) for a response. To find your local PHA's contact info, browse by state here.
Federal housing programs are either restricted, or unrestricted. Restricted means that at least one person in your household must be either a citizen or an eligible noncitizen. Unrestricted means that anyone can apply regardless of their immigration status. Restricted programs can have different documentation requirements, and the immigrant composition of a household can affect how much housing subsidy it receives in some of these restricted programs.
As long as at least one member of the household is a citizen or eligible noncitizen, the entire household may apply to restricted programs. The eligible person may not have to be the head of the household, depending on the housing program.
Eligible noncitizens include the following:
Lawful permanent residents
Any noncitizen living in the U.S. under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence. Also known as a “Green Card holder.”
Persons admitted for permanent residence by the U.S. Attorney General and eligible for citizenship.
Refugees or asylees
Foreign nationals in the U.S. who are unable or unwilling to return to their countries of origin because of fear of persecution.
Foreign nationals granted permanent resident status on a conditional basis ho must petition to remove the conditions of their immigration status within two years from initial approval. Examples include a spouse of a U.S. citizen or foreign investor.
Inadmissible foreign nationals allowed to leave an immigration inspection facility although not formally admitted to the U.S. Usually granted for humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.
A Withholding from Removal granted by a judge to a foreign national slated to be returned to his or her country of origin. Granted on the basis of likelihood of persecution upon return.
Persons granted 1986 amnesty status
Under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act persons who resided illegally in the U.S. prior to 1982 and meet certain conditions.
Victims of trafficking, or relatives of such a victim.
Legalized status obtained by meeting requirements of 2000 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.
Residents of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau or Guam
If you are unsure about what your exact immigration status may be, you should speak with an immigration attorney.
Public Housing, Project-Based Section 8 and the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher programs allow families that are considered ‘mixed families’ to be eligible for assistance. Mixed households are those that include members who are not citizens and do not have appropriate immigration status, to be eligible for assistance. However, HUD also adjusts the amount of rent the tenant pays based on the number of people in the household who are eligible immigrants. These HUD programs do not require that the head of the household be a citizen or eligible immigrant. These programs also adjust the amount of rent the tenant pays based on the number of people in the household who are eligible immigrants. This is called prorated assistance or prorated rent.
For more information about these programs, including how to apply click the following links:
If you live in a rural area, there may be low-income apartment communities funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA programs can also serve mixed households, but the head of the household must be a citizen or lawful permanent resident. Rent subsidy is not pro-rated based on the number of other household members who are not eligible immigrants.
Three programs, the Section 514 and Section 516 Farm Labor Housing programs, and Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance have restrictions based on immigration status. The Section 516 program provides subsidized loans to farmers and community nonprofit organizations to build affordable housing for farm workers, with the Section 516 program providing grants to community organizations building these low-income rental communities. Tenants must be employed in farm labor in order to live in these apartments. Households must have incomes below 80% of Area Median Income to qualify for this housing. The head of the household must be a U.S. citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident. A Lawful Permanent Resident is a non-citizen who has been authorized to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis. The permanent resident card they receive is often called a “green card.”
Section 521 rental assistance can be attached to projects with different funding sources, as long as they are located in a rural area. The head of the household must be a citizen or a lawful permanent resident. Tenants pay 30% of their adjusted monthly income or 10% of their gross monthly income for rent. There is no proration of rent for mixed households like there is with HUD programs. You can earn up to 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) to live in an apartment with Section 521 rental assistance. If Section 521 rental assistance is being used in a property whose funding would otherwise allow undocumented households, such as USDA's Section 515 program, the stricter rental assistance eligibility rules would apply and the head of the household would have to be a citizen or lawful permanent resident.
For more information on how to apply for these programs, visit the USDA Rural Development Multi-Family Housing Rentals page here, and contact the property for assistance.