Rent Assistance

Discover How You Can Get Rent Assistance

One of the biggest living expenses that Americans must face involves paying for housing. Rent can be difficult to manage, especially for low income families. Because of this, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has created a series of programs that can help millions of Americans receive financial assistance with their monthly rent. You may qualify for one of these programs, or even become eligible to receive housing at little-to-no cost.

How Rent Assistance Can Help You

If you are struggling to balance paying for rent and all of your other monthly expenses, you could likely benefit from some kind of rent assistance. Whether they are qualified government programs or simply money saving tips, rent assistance options can be helpful to anyone, regardless factors like age or income. While this article will mostly discuss rent assistance programs for low income families, rent assistance strategies are available for many Americans.

Who is eligible for federal rent assistance?

While some rent assistance tips are useful for everyone, certain federal programs are only available to those who qualify. These programs primarily look at household income as the most important eligibility requirement. In order to receive certain benefits, you/your family must be considered Low Income, Very Low Income or Extremely Low Income, according to HUD standards. These require you to fall below 80 percent, 50 percent, or 30 percent of the federal poverty level, respectively.

Non-government Rent Assistance Strategies

Before discussing any long-term rent assistance strategies that you can take by utilizing HUD’s rent programs, it is important to know that you may be able to handle smaller or more temporary rent issues in a simpler way. For example, the first thing that you should always do when trying to come up with a cheaper monthly rent payment is talk to your landlord. While the information listed in your lease is obviously important, specific rent numbers are often negotiable. Make sure to ask for written confirmation of any agreed-upon changes to your lease, as this will help substantiate your lowered payment plan in case any issues arise. Other options can include adding a roommate to your lease.

There are also ways to get extra funds to pay your rent through a third party. Many banks allow individuals to take out small personal loans (with associated monthly payments) if they have a good enough credit score. Additionally, if you do not wish to take out any kind of loan, many charitable organizations in your community focus on helping out low income individuals and families. Some of these charities, such as Salvation Army, 2-1-1 and some religious organizations provide these helpful funds to qualifying applicants who can prove their need.

Finally, as a last resort, it is possible to take your rent problems/concerns to the justice system by hiring a free legal counsel from an organization such as the Legal Aid Society. They specialize in helping to mediate between low income tenants and their landlords, and if necessary, provide lawyers to represent these low income tenants in a court battle. However, it is important to remember that some of the related court expenses, especially in drawn-out trials, must fall on the tenant in certain cases.

HUD’s Low Income Rent Assistance Programs

There are three main federally-run rental assistance programs in America that are sponsored and regulated by HUD. Low income individuals and families may reach out to apply for these programs if they meet the proper income guidelines set in place for each individual program.

The first of these programs, privately-owned subsidized housing, involves apartment complex owners who wish to receive funding from HUD allowing low income residents to live at reduced rent prices. These qualifying apartments can be found through the HUD website’s apartment database, and elsewhere online. While these types of apartments are privately regulated, landlords are highly incentivized to provide quality service to their low income tenants in order to receive more benefits from HUD.

In a similar vein, the next type of federal housing program is the HUD’s Public Housing program. This is a program that was designed in order to create affordable, safe and reliable neighborhoods and housing projects that are designated for low income, elderly and/or disabled residents. These neighborhoods can contain single-family homes, duplexes/townhouses, high-rise apartments, and other housing options. They are regulated by housing agencies, which are located in many cities and towns across the country. These agencies serve as the de facto landlords of their communities and handle all typical landlord duties for their tenants.

Finally, there is the widely known Section 8 program. Officially called the Housing Choice Voucher Program, this HUD service allows for qualified individual homeowners to rent out their property to an eligible low-income family. This service can have more appeal to some families, as it gives them more options regarding the location that they would like to live in and not being limited to just public housing communities. If a family is eligible to receive Section 8 housing, it is given a special voucher that can be used on any eligible Section 8 homes of their choice, including those in Public Housing Communities. Families can often find a rental home that is much closer in distance to their current place of residence. Homeowners can be incentivized to allow Section 8 renters because they are guaranteed at least a portion of their expected rent. This is due to the fact that HUD’s vouchers cover a large percentage of the rent, while the low-income family covers the rest. But because these properties are generally in higher demand than other low-income homes and apartments, there may be a waiting list set up by your local Housing Agency for your city. Your placement on this waiting list can be based on a number of factors, including your household income, family composition and current living conditions.

How to Apply for Rent Assistance

Applying to any of these federal rent assistance programs can be easy, if you have the right information prepared. You will either need to apply for these through your local Housing Agency, or through HUD itself. Generally, you will need identifying information about your family, including names, birth dates, current employers, banking information and income information. You may also be asked to provide additional identifying documents such as birth certificates or bank slips, and to consent to a potential in-home interview by a Housing Agency in order to confirm your eligibility and level of need. Then, after you have been accepted by a Housing Agency and/or HUD, you can officially begin to receive your low income rent assistance.

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