Here’s What To Know About Affordable Housing And Rental Assistance

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Due to a limited availability of homes in the U.S. (particularly affordable ones) and the fast growing nature of many metropolitan areas, the cost of buying and renting homes reached an unattainable cost for many people living in this country. According to a poll conducted by the Manhattan Institute with Echelon Insights, many people consider housing costs and homelessness a bigger concern than COVID-19, jobs, education, taxes and more. Fortunately, the Federal and local governments have programs in place to assist people with finding affordable housing. 

This article will answer the following questions about affordable housing:

What is affordable housing?

Who qualifies for these types of programs?

How can I apply for affordable housing?

Are there any other programs that help with rent?

What is affordable housing?

Affordable housing or rental assistance programs are programs offered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to assist low-income families and individuals, people who are elderly, and people with disabilities. 

Typically, these are the types of programs offered:

  • Private subsidized housing: these are private properties where landlords or companies are paid by the government to offer affordable rates. Tip: many apartment complexes and properties subsidize at least a few units for this reason, so it doesn’t hurt to check in with them. 
  • Public housing: this used to be called “Section 8” housing and this is where houses and apartments are managed by the government and specifically designed to be affordable. 
  • Housing vouchers: through this program, applicants choose their own housing and are given a voucher to help pay for some or all of their rent.

Who qualifies for these types of programs?

People who qualify for affordable housing and rental assistance include low-income citizens and qualified non-citizens, elderly people, people with disabilities, and in some cases, veterans. Requirements vary by area, but generally include anyone making less than 50-80% of the median family  income of the area they live in. 

Here is the income limits documentation system, where you can find exact calculations in your county based on your family size and income. 

How can I apply for affordable housing?

After you’ve checked that you meet the income requirements mentioned above, check if you meet all other requirements  by contacting your local public housing agency (PHA). Click this link and then click on your state to find your information. 

You can also search for the affordable housing criteria and availability in your city online by searching “affordable housing [insert your city here].” 

To find a complete list of steps to apply and more information about what the application process looks like, click here. It is important to note that these programs often require a wait time or waitlist process. 

This application process will require information verification and documentation with factors such as the names of all persons who would be living in the unit and an estimate of your family’s anticipated income to name a few, your housing agency will also look into your suitability as a tenant. 

Are there any programs that help with rent?

Yes! Click here to find rental assistant programs specific to your state. 

You can also go to for help finding housing, rental assistance, help paying bills, temporary shelter and more or call 2-1-1 if you have any questions or want to speak to someone one-on-one. 

If you have any questions specifically about any of the federal affordable housing programs or need advice on where to start, you can contact your local public housing agency mentioned earlier, or you can call (800) 569-4287.

Thalia Carrillo is a writer based in Austin, TX. She moved from her hometown of El Paso, TX to pursue a journalism degree at The University of Texas at Austin. She enjoys covering politics and pop culture and has a passion for social justice, digital storytelling, plants, and specialty coffee!