There’s no place like home, right? But what if finding a home because of limited finances is difficult?
The number of seniors living in publicly supported residences rose nearly three percent from 2018 to 2019, and 2.86 million seniors currently live in publicly subsidized homes, according to the 2020 Housing Impact Report: Seniors from the Public and Affordable Housing Research Association.
Many seniors live on a fixed income, and housing costs can eat up a good portion of that income. If you or a loved one is struggling to keep up with the rent, the good news is that help is available if certain age and income thresholds are met.
The federal government offers a couple income based senior housing programs, specifically aimed at easing the burden for everyone involved in the aging in place process. Understanding how each of these programs works is the first step to getting assistance.
The Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program provides affordable housing to seniors who are over 62 with limited income. The program funds affordable housing communities, and rent is based on your adjusted gross income. Participants pay no more than 30% of their adjusted gross income in rent. To apply for the program, submit an application in response to a Notice of Funding Availability on grants.com.
The other major income based senior housing program available is the Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers program. This program offers assistance to low-income families, including seniors, by providing vouchers to help reduce the cost of housing. Seniors who are granted a voucher can choose their own housing as long as the landlord is willing to sign a rental agreement accepting the voucher assistance.
According to the Housing and Urban Development website, “The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.”
The program is administered by local Public Housing Agencies (PHA), and eligibility is based on income. According to HUD, “In general, the family’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live. By law, a PHA must provide 75% of its vouchers to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30% of the area median income.” However, the PHA has some flexibility to give preference to local families who are homeless or living in “substandard housing,” are paying more than 50% of their income in rent or who were involuntarily displaced.
Under the program, recipients pay up to 30% of their monthly adjusted income, and the voucher covers the rest of the rent. Both the renter and the local PHA sign rental agreements with the landlord.
Applications for the voucher program are submitted to your local PHA, and there is no age threshold to apply. You can find a list of PHAs on the HUD website.
The difference between the voucher program and the Section 202 option is that the voucher program allows the participant to live anywhere. When accepting Section 202 assistance, recipients will live in an affordable housing community. The voucher program offers more flexibility, but it is also in higher demand, so waiting lists for assistance can be long.
Navigating the often complex public assistance system can be difficult, but there are tools to help. The National Council on Aging provides a Benefits Checkup screening tool that can identify the types of assistance you may be eligible for. Simply answer a few questions and indicate what type of assistance you are looking for, and the tool will provide a list of possible assistance opportunities.
The HUD Resource Locator provides a map-based listing of all the HUD resources available in your location, including HUD offices and affordable housing communities. The tool is useful for identifying the locations of possible housing options as well as giving you a picture of where vital resources are located.
Assistance for veterans
If you’re a veteran facing homelessness, special programs are available to meet your needs. HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs administer a joint program known as HUD-VASH to provide vouchers to homeless veterans to cover the cost of housing. The VA also administers services through the program, including health care and mental health treatment. According to the VA, at the end of fiscal year 2020, “nearly 80,000 formerly homeless Veterans are living in their own permanent housing as a result of this partnership between HUD and VA.”
Long-term care communities
Programs to provide monetary assistance for low-income seniors in nursing homes or assisted living communities are generally administered at the state level. In many states, Medicaid will cover both room and board and any necessary care needs, but benefits vary by state, so check with your state’s agency that oversees Medicaid.
Likewise, eligibility for Medicaid varies by state, but it is usually available only to very low-income applicants. To find out the eligibility rules and benefits in your state, visit the Medicaid website.
States and local non-profits may also offer housing assistance for low-income seniors. Be sure to check with your state, county and city agencies to see what types of assistance are available.
While finding income based senior housing might not be as easy as clicking your heels together, understanding the available options can have you quickly saying, “There’s no place like home.”