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Low Income Housing Guides for Renters

If you regularly struggle to pay your monthly rent, there are housing programs that help relieve that stress for qualified applicants. The Low Income Housing Guide for Renters has all the information needed for Americans who are in need of federal housing programs provided by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Applying for affordable housing can be involved and complicated, and this guide has been written to make that process easy to understand.

There are multiple HUD programs that assist low-income renters, and each have their own specific benefits, policies and procedures. Interested applicants can follow the easy to read step-by-step instructions for the entire application process - including eligibility, how to apply, and what happens after applying.

Select a housing program below to learn more:

Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Guide

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program is a federal rental assistance program that helps low-income renters pay a portion of their income for rent. 

Program participants choose their own unit to use the voucher, and pay 30% of the household’s adjusted monthly income toward rent. The rest is paid to the landlord by the Public Housing Agency (commonly referred to as a housing authority) that manages the household’s voucher.

Overseen and funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are more than 2,400 HUD Public Housing Agencies nationwide that individually manage the Section 8 HCV program.

  • Note: This program is not to be confused with the Section 8 Project-Based Voucher (PBV) program. Section 8 PBV tenants are required to live in a specific apartment community or scattered site. After one year of occupancy, a Project-Based Voucher tenant may request to be placed on a waiting list to receive the next available Housing Choice Voucher or similar tenant-based rental assistance.
Read The Full Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Guide

Public Housing Guide

The Public Housing program provides affordable rental apartment communities and scattered homes and apartments (known as “scattered sites”) that give rental assistance to participants. The organizations that administer this program and own the properties are called Public Housing Agencies (commonly called housing authorities), which are funded and overseen by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). There are more than 3,300 housing authorities nationwide that offer Public Housing assistance for a specific jurisdiction, whether it is a city, county, or region of multiple areas. Called the Total Tenant Payment (TTP), program participants pay either 1) 10% of their monthly income (gross income minus exclusions), 2) 30% of their monthly adjusted income (gross income minus exclusions and deductions) or 3) a minimum rent of between $0 and $50 established by each housing authority independently. Participants are required to live in the specific community or scattered site they applied to, and must participate in community service.

Read The Full Public Housing Guide

Low Income Housing Tax Credit Guide

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program helps create affordable apartment communities with lower than market rents by offering tax incentives to the property owners (not the tenant renting the unit). Properties may contain market rate units that are not financially assisted, in addition to reduced rent LIHTC units under a tiered rent structure. A tiered rent structure means that it’s possible for the same unit to have different rent amounts for occupants with different incomes. Private management companies and individual owners manage these low-income housing apartment communities. LIHTC units may also have a rental subsidy program attached to them, such as the Project-Based Section 8 program.

Read The Full Low Income Housing Tax Credit Guide

Project-Based Section 8 Rental Assistance Guide

The Project-Based Section 8 Rental Assistance program provides affordable apartment communities that are owned by private landlords with a rental subsidy that helps pay the rent for low income tenants. Called the Total Tenant Payment (TTP), program tenants pay either 1) 10% of their monthly income (gross income minus exclusions), 2) 30% of their monthly adjusted income (gross income minus exclusions and deductions) or 3) a minimum rent of $25. The Project-Based Section 8 rental subsidy may be available for every unit in a property, or a select number of units in the apartment community.

This program can be confused with the Section 8 Project-Based Voucher (PBV) program, which is managed by a Public Housing Agency as an offshoot of its Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.

Read The Full Project-Based Section 8 Rental Assistance Guide

Natural Disaster Housing Guide

Natural disasters unfortunately occur each year in many parts of the country. From earthquakes, to wildfires, to hurricanes, these disasters can result in mandatory evacuations, significant property damage, and loss of life. The most important concern for you and your family should always be safety. There are many things you can and should do before, during, and after a disaster to ensure you and your family remain properly housed.

Read The Full Natural Disaster Housing Guide

Housing for Immigrants Guide

There are housing programs in the United States that can provide affordable housing for all immigrants, including those that are undocumented. This guide will explain what federal affordable housing programs are open to immigrants, provide the eligibility requirements for these programs and describe other resources that can help immigrant households find an apartments they can afford.

The federal government makes housing affordable to low-income renters in several ways. Some affordable housing properties have federal subsidies directly attached to the apartments so that tenants eligible to live there pay 30% of their income for rent. The federal government also helps low-income renters afford apartments in the private rental market by providing vouchers allowing tenants to pay 30% of their income to rent from a private landlord, with the government paying the remainder up to the established local Fair Market Rent (FMR). Finally, the federal government has programs that reduce the cost to build affordable apartments and in return the owners agree to set rents at a level that is affordable to low-income renters in their area.

Housing authorities and other owners of federally funded affordable apartment communities are not required to report your immigration status to immigration authorities at the Department of Homeland Security when you apply for assistance. However, your immigration status can be affected by not accurately reporting it when you apply for housing that receives restricted federal funds. You will also need to have a Social Security number when applying for federal housing programs, except for those people in your household who are not claiming eligible immigrant status.

Read The Full Housing for Immigrants Guide

Section 811 Housing for the Disabled Guide

The Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program provides subsidized affordable apartment communities for disabled persons. These communities are owned by private property management companies or an individual private owner. Program participants pay the higher of 30% of their net income or 10% of their gross income for rent. Some exceptions apply for acceptance of welfare payments from an agency on behalf of the tenant household. You apply for a Section 811 apartment by submitting an application to the property’s management company or landlord, but there are properties that do not take applicants from the general public. Those properties require the applicant be referred from a related local organization. Applicants may apply nationwide, regardless of where they currently live. If the community does not have any available units, you will be placed on a waiting list.

Not all areas have properties that offer the Section 811 program, so check for properties in nearby cities and counties, as well.

Read The Full Section 811 Housing for the Disabled Guide

Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Guide

The Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program provides subsidized affordable apartment communities for elderly persons. These communities are owned by private management companies or an individual private owner. Program participants pay 30% of their net income for rent. You apply for a Section 202 apartment by submitting an application to the property’s management company or landlord. Applicants may apply nationwide, regardless of where they currently live. If the community does not have any available units, you will be placed on a waiting list.

Not all areas have properties that offer the Section 202 program, so check for properties in nearby cities and counties, as well.

Read The Full Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Guide

Housing for Persons with Criminal Records Guide

Having a criminal record makes it challenging to find affordable housing, but someone with a criminal record may still qualify for many federal low-income housing programs. This guide will cover:

  • How housing providers use criminal records in reviewing applications.
  • What federal housing programs have restrictions based on criminal records.
  • Suggestions for limiting the impact of your record when applying for housing.
  • What to do if you're denied housing assistance based on your criminal records history.
Read The Full Housing for Persons with Criminal Records Guide

Housing for Seniors Guide

There are many federal housing resources available to seniors. These include affordable rental housing and supportive services to help seniors maintain independence for as long as possible. This guide will provide information about different housing resources available to seniors looking for affordable housing. Read below to find out how to get more information and apply for these programs.

Read The Full Housing for Seniors Guide

Housing for Persons with Disabilities Guide

There are many federal housing resources available to persons with disabilities. These include affordable rental housing and supportive services to help disabled persons maintain independence and involvement in the community. This guide will provide information about different housing resources available to persons with disabilities looking for affordable housing. Read below to find out how to get more information and apply for these programs.

Read The Full Housing for Persons with Disabilities Guide

How to Port Your Section 8 Voucher Guide

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program allows voucher holders to transfer their voucher to pay rent in anew area, once certain conditions are met. This is called portability.

A HCV participant may only port out to a different area after one year of residency in their housing authority's jurisdiction (service area). If the voucher holder was a resident in the jurisdiction when they initially applied for the voucher, they may request to port out to a different jurisdiction at any time.

  • For example, if you live in New York City, NY, and apply for the Chicago Housing Authority's HCV waiting list in Illinois, you must live within the Chicago Housing Authority's jurisdiction with your voucher for 12 months before porting. But, if you live in Chicago, IL and apply for the Chicago Housing Authority Section 8 waiting list, you may port to a new area any time after you receive your voucher.

You can also only port your voucher to another Public Housing Agency (PHA) that also offers the HCV program. Vouchers cannot be ported to a PHA that only offers the Public Housing program.

It is important to consider any expenses involved in moving to a new location such as your current lease, rental deposit, moving and travel costs, and utility costs. Have a plan for transportation, school registration, employment, and childcare before you start the porting process to ease the transition to a new home.

Housing authorities are given a lot of leeway by HUD in their porting policy, so there may be other requirements not mentioned in this guide to port your voucher.

Read The Full How to Port Your Section 8 Voucher Guide