In almost all cities, no matter the size, workers are finding that even working full-time hours does not guarantee covering the rent for a basic two-bedroom apartment. This means that many Americans are having trouble providing housing for themselves and their families. If they are able to cover the climbing rent, they may then be unable to provide the other basic necessities like food, water, and clothing. If you are struggling, like many Americans, there is help available that makes housing more affordable for those who qualify.
What is Affordable Housing?
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, affordable housing means that housing is affordable despite what a person makes. Those who need affordable housing are those who pay more than 30% of their income for their rent or mortgage. Right now, a number of Americans are paying more than 50% of their income to housing.
USA.gov states that low-income, elderly, and disabled persons can qualify for affordable housing programs. If you do need help with housing, the website also lists a phone number you can call to get information on your local housing agency.
For more information, visit the National Low-Income Housing Coalition: Affordable housing is out of reach for many American workers.
Low-Income Home Loan Options
If you have bad or no credit, you might feel that there is no option available to secure a loan for housing. You do not have to be in a low-income bracket to have trouble. Catastrophic health issues, divorce, and other serious life events can affect your credit. However, there are many places that can offer help in this area. The Federal Home Loan Center lists some loans that are available and federally funded: VA loans, FHA loans, and USDA loans.
FHA loans have low down payments and are relatively easy to qualify for. They also have a low fixed interest rate, lenient credit guidelines, and low cash requirements. You can also receive a rebate towards any closing costs.
If you are a veteran, you can qualify for a VA home loan. There are little or no expected down payments for these loans. You also do not need mortgage insurance to obtain the loan. Military service and a certificate of eligibility from the VA is needed to qualify.
The last option is a USDA loan. This type of loan is best for those looking for cheap housing on the outskirts of major cities. These loans are for 30 years and have a low fixed rate. This is the only 100% financing option loan available on the market today, besides the VA Home Loan.
To learn more, go to Operation Hope: Home Buyers Program.
State and Federal Programs
There are many state and federal programs available. For federal assistance, the three loans mentioned above are the best choices, as opposed to conventional home loans which are stricter and more difficult to qualify for.
As for state-funded programs, visit your local state department website for information, as each state may have differing requirements and available programs. An example is found at the Senator Gillibrand website. This is an extensive guidebook on the programs available for New York state. Sections cover veteran assistance, senior citizen housing, low-income, disability, and rural housing, as well as what general assistance is available for all individuals who live in the state of New York.
Government Benefits has numerous programs available for a variety of people. These include, but are not limited to, adjustable rate mortgage insurance, cash-out refinance loans, emergency solutions grants, and property improvement loan insurance.
For more ideas, go to Massachusetts Government Website: How to obtain housing assistance.
Determining What You Can Afford
Before applying for any loan or program, determine what your budget will be for housing. Smart About Money has a great calculator to help determine what you can afford with your current pay. Not only are you calculating rent but you cannot forget utilities, renter’s or home owner’s insurance, and other expenses. Also, take the time to know your debt-to-income ratio. This will help you understand if your debt will affect your ability to afford certain housing.
To learn more, visit:
- Money Management International: How to determine how much you can afford to spend on a new home
Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in residential dwellings. This also applies to programs that the federal government provides for affordable and public housing, which require them to administer such programs and activities relating to housing and urban development in the manner of the Fair Housing Act, as stated by John Marshall Law School.
Regardless of race, gender, religion, or family status, you are protected under the Fair Housing Act when looking for housing you can afford. If you do believe you have been discriminated against, have a look at how to approach the situation at the Connecticut Legal Rights Protect website.
For more information, go to the US Department of Justice: Fair Housing Act.
Housing Assistance for Renters
Affordable housing also means being able to afford rent. There is help for people who have to rent their homes instead of purchasing. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities states that there are three major federal programs that assist renters: Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and Public Housing. Those who are considered low-income – meaning their income does not exceed 80% of the local median income – are eligible for rental assistance. These types of programs assist families in renting decent quality housing and avoiding homelessness.
Depending on the state you live in, you may be eligible for rental assistance. These programs may be available for low-income families who are homeless, in danger of being homeless, or who need emergency housing. An example of what a state government may provide can be seen at the Maryland Government website.
You can also look into applying for a grant to enable you to rent your apartment. The USA Grant Application website explains how you can apply for these rental assistance grants.
Assistance for the Homeless
Homelessness is a growing problem in most major cities, some worse than others. The majority of those who are homeless have become homeless due to circumstances beyond their control. The best place to start for those who are homeless is the US Department of Health and Human Services. There are many programs aimed at assisting those who have become homeless. There are programs and grants available. You can also check out your local government website for their own homeless assistance programs.
Veterans are at risk for homelessness due to returning to a normal life. Sometimes integrating yourself back into life and finding work can have challenges. The US Department of Veteran Affairs offers assistance to at-risk veterans and their families. The programs available are Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Programs, Enhanced-Use Lease Program, and Acquired Property Sales for Homeless Providers Program. All aim to find affordable or public housing for veterans and families.
The Salvation Army also has group homes, emergency shelters, and transitional living centers available. To find out what is available in your area, you can contact your local Salvation Army location.
According to a survey conducted in 2014 through Habitat for Humanity, 47% of adults have experienced unstable or insecure housing situations at one point in their lives. The percentage rises to 59% for those who make less than $40,000 a year.
In all regions of the United States, 53-69% of those surveyed said it was challenging to obtain affordable housing in their community. Fifty-eight percent of families of four making $50,000 a year had a hard time finding quality affordable housing, while 88% of families of four making $24,000 a year found it difficult.
Each state is different, but an example of the massive scale of the homeless issue can be seen in a pamphlet at Coalition for the Homeless based in New York. On average, 62,000 people of all ages and genders spend time in a shelter each night. The problem is a chronic shortage of affordable housing with rising rents and low wages. Within 10 years, the homeless issue increased 79%. In most states, the growing issue of rising housing costs and below average wages has made the need for affordable housing even more important.
To learn more about it, visit Boston University: Homelessness – Its consequences and its causes.
Shelters are a great in-between place should you become homeless and need emergency or transitional housing. Shelters provide many necessities to those who are homeless, such as sleeping areas, food, and basic healthcare. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness explains that emergency shelters are absolutely vital in decreasing the population of local homeless people and families. However, most communities are not using their shelters wisely, which can affect how well they assist homeless people in finding them permanent housing.
If you are in need of a homeless shelter, you can find a local shelter on Homeless Shelter Directory.
Volunteers of America has helpful information at Emergency and long-term help for the homeless, hungry, and poor.
There are many programs available to assist the homeless with housing. For emergency and transitional housing, shelters cover that area. There is also the Continuum of Care program that is implemented by each state that targets the issue of housing and the homeless. For an example of how states run a COC (Continuum of Care) program, you can check the Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services. Funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, each state uses COC to perform outreach, have available shelters, housing, and supportive services, and create homeless prevention strategies for at-risk individuals and families.
The University of Southern Mississippi has a Project Recovery Rapid Re-Housing Program. This program is set up to assist those with a variety of services such as employment referrals, training referrals, and life-skills training. You can check out your local university website to see if they have similar programs available.
The Federal Register has more information at Emergency assistance and rapid transition to housing: COC.
Additional Resources for the Homeless
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration discusses the resource available to homeless individuals at Homelessness program resources.
That National Center for Homeless Education talks about state-level programs and assistance at Individual state resources for homelessness.
The National Runaway Safeline also offers some resources and advice at Official website.
The Health Resources and Services Administration helps homeless individuals and families to find medical care at Find a health center.