Starting Towards Affordable Housing

by tempuser

The cost of housing may be too much for a family to handle, especially when combined with other living expenses like groceries and medical bills. Rent prices already seem impossible to afford as they are. Fortunately the federal government provides a few different opportunities to families that are struggling. The goal is to ensure households that need it get access to affordable housing.

Defining Affordable Housing and What That Might Mean for You

Affordable housing doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. The amount of housing that you can afford is dependent on your personal situation. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determines that a household should not spend more than 30% of their income on housing expenses. To get a better idea of this, let’s go into a specific example. If your gross income is $5,000 per month, this means that you can afford for your housing expenses to be a maximum of $1,500. These housing costs should also include the cost of utilities such as electricity and water! Another example would be someone who makes $2,400 per month and is able to afford up to $720 in housing costs.

According to the HUD, a household spending greater than 30% of their income on housing related expenses is likely to become cost-burdened. A family that is experiencing this may have little money left over for other necessary expenses. In order to understand how much housing you can afford, you first need to understand your personal situation!

Government Programs for Affordable Housing

Now that you understand what affordable housing means, it is important to know what options you have. There are a number of programs that aim to provide housing relief to people who need it. Some of the more well-known programs include:

Public Housing

Public Housing is designed to offer qualifying low-income households safe housing at an affordable rate. You will find that these rentals are available in many types and sizes! This affordable housing program is available thanks to HUD. However, local housing agencies (HAs) are in charge of operating the program. They are responsible for managing the units and providing residents with rent rates that they can afford.

If you are interested in applying for this opportunity, you can reach out to your local HA. If you don’t receive a response from the HA in your area, another option is to contact your local HUD Field Office.

As stated before, this program is available to qualifying families and individuals. But what exactly does that mean? The exact criteria to qualify will vary depending on where you live. With that in mind, it will include points of criteria like income level or U.S. citizenship/eligible immigration status.

Section 8 / The Housing Choice Voucher Program

Another affordable housing program provided by the HUD is the Housing Choice Voucher Program or Section 8. This program is different from Public Housing because recipients are given vouchers that go towards housing expenses. Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) are responsible for operating the program and administering the vouchers. Another important thing to note is that Section 8 recipients need to find their own rental to live in. However, not every property will qualify. The local PHA will conduct an inspection of the property to ensure it is safe for the family to live in. In addition to this, the landlord has to accept vouchers as a form of payment. 

When determining the amount of the voucher, the program considers the 30% rule defined by the HUD. The goal for families participating in this program is to not have to pay more than this percentage of their income on housing expenses. With that in mind, household income is considered when determining eligibility. Other factors that the PHA will take into consideration when reviewing an application include:

  • U.S. Citizenship or another eligible status
  • Rental history
  • Household status

The exact eligibility criteria will be different depending on where you live!

Supportive Housing

Knowing all of the resources out there for affordable housing can make a difference when tough times come around. That is why it’s also worth noting supportive housing. Now, this opportunity may be different from the programs previously mentioned because it is not a federally supported opportunity. However, it is still an important option for families to be aware of! Supportive housing options to be aware of are:

  • Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
  • Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)
  • Emergency Shelters
  • Transitional Shelters 

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)

This supportive housing option is for those defined as chronically homeless. There is often a reason these individuals find it difficult to maintain housing, due to either a physical or mental disability. PSH aims to address these reasons by providing necessary services and housing. The HUD defines someone as chronically homeless if they live in:

  • A place not intended for human habitation
  • Emergency shelters
  • Safe havens

In order to be defined as chronically homeless, an individual must have lived in any of the places listed above for a minimum of 12 months. It can also apply if someone lives in any of these circumstances for a total of 12 months on and off over three years.

Another situation to which this applies is when an individual enters an institutional care facility after living in one of the situations described above and stays for less than 90 days.

Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)

The goal of Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) is to house individuals who need it quickly, as well as provide services for support after they are settled. RRH differs from PSH because it provides support to people and families who are not chronically homeless. However, both are using an approach known as “housing first.” RRH offers both housing assistance and temporary support services to help those in need. A couple of examples of services they provide include time-limited financial help, as well as case management.

Emergency Shelters

Emergency shelters offer a short-term solution to people and families experiencing homelessness. These facilities are typically the first place a displaced family will turn to in an urgent time of need. These shelters not only provide temporary housing but also support services. The goal is to give families the time and support they need to figure out a more permanent solution.

Transitional Shelters

The last supportive housing option on this list is transitional shelters, which offer temporary housing for a longer period of time. It should not be surprising that support services are also provided to shelter residents. Transitional shelters provide services that can improve a resident’s overall health as well as their employment status. The amount of time that one can stay in this type of shelter varies from six months to two years.


Affordable housing is a major struggle for millions of Americans. The cost of housing is rising rapidly, making it even more difficult for families already facing hard times. This is why the HUD provides a variety of different housing options for those who need support. If you are in need of support, some options that you can consider include:

Following what the HUD defines as affordable housing, if you are spending more than 30% of your income on housing expenses, it is too much. If you would like more information about any of the programs mentioned previously, it is best to contact your local PHA.

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