Low income housing programs across the country help applicants meet basic needs, such as safe and decent housing. Individuals, families with children, the elderly and the disabled who meet an area's income limits may apply. High demand and limited slots typically mean you must first get on a waiting list. However, you can usually apply to more than one area's low income housing programs, possibly reducing your waiting time. There are two ways to apply for low income housing, depending on the type of housing you seek.
Privately Owned Subsidized Housing
Apply directly with property management when trying to obtain privately owned subsidized housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides individual landlords and for-profit and nonprofit corporations with subsidies to make affordable rentals available specifically to low income tenants. HUD issues a voucher to the owner of a multifamily complex or to individual renters of subsidized housing. The voucher either stays with the property or with the tenant and can be used for any eligible private rental.
Find low income apartments and visit the rental office of each complex that interests you. Each property management company has its own application process. Income limits also vary among subsidized housing developments. The application process differs from that of traditional housing; it involves more paperwork, processing and waiting than market-rate rentals because the owners must comply with HUD's strict requirements.
Housing Choice Voucher Programs
Housing choice voucher programs, commonly known as Section 8, can be used for privately owned rental units, such as single-family houses and for apartments within government-owned public housing projects. The application process for these vouchers differs from that of subsidized housing. Apply at a public housing authority office, rather than directly with a landlord or property management company.
Each housing authority administers Section 8 for its jurisdiction, therefore, the application process may vary slightly by area. You must submit a written application to an authority. Either you or a housing authority representative can fill out the application. Section 8 housing applications require the following information:
- Name, sex and date of birth for each person in the family and relationship to the head of household
- Applicant's current address and telephone number
- Circumstances that may qualify for priority placement in low income housing, such as veteran status, disability or substandard living conditions
- Contact information for current and previous landlords
- Estimate of anticipated income for the next 12-month period
- Bank and employer information for income and asset verification
- Contact information for case workers and other government assistance you may receive
Additional Steps in the Application Process
A housing authority representative may interview you in-office or at your home to further verify your household composition and living circumstances. Housing authorities try to ensure that you will be reliable tenants. You also must provide supporting documents to the housing authority, such as:
- Birth certificates
- Tax returns
- Immigration or naturalization paperwork to establish your legal residency
- Signed authorization allowing the housing authority to verify facts directly with third parties
Keep your address and contact information updated while waiting for a response to your low income housing application. You may be placed on a waiting list for several months to years, depending on program demand. A housing authority may discard your application if it can't contact you when a spot becomes available.
If you have trouble contacting a housing authority, you may contact your HUD regional field office, where you will be directed to an appropriate resource.
Apply to as many subsidized housing developments and housing authorities as possible to increase your chances of getting low income housing. Apply locally and outside of your area. Many housing authorities give priority placement to local residents. If low income housing becomes available outside of your area, you must move to the rental's jurisdiction.
Karina C. Hernandez is a real estate agent in San Diego. She has covered housing and personal finance topics for multiple internet channels over the past 10 years. Karina has a B.A. in English from UCLA and has written for eHow, sfGate, the nest, Quicken, TurboTax, RE/Max, Zacks and Opposing Views.