If you're struggling to pay your monthly rent, the government supports various programs to help keep a roof over your head. Programs that receive funding from the federal government are often run by state or local organizations. For long-term rental assistance, you can apply for a rental subsidy. If you need temporary help due to a hardship or emergency, charities can often provide immediate assistance.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development runs the Housing Choice Voucher Program to provide rental subsidies to low-income households. HUD provides grants to local Public Housing Authorities responsible for running the programs. If approved, you contribute a portion of your income toward the rent, and the voucher covers the rest. You aren't limited to public housing. You can rent any private apartment or house if the landlord agrees to accept the vouchers. Generally, the qualifying household income is limited to 50 percent of area median income in the county where you choose to live. Due to high demand and limited funding, a PHA might have a long waiting list, and some even temporarily stop accepting applications. It's up to the individual PHA to set preferences for who receives priority.
People With Disabilities
Certain vouchers are reserved exclusively for disabled households. These include:
- Designated housing vouchers for non-elderly families with a disabled household member.
- Certain development vouchers for non-elderly families with a disabled member that live in an area where the developments restrict occupancy to elderly households.
- Mainstream vouchers for households of any age, elderly or non-elderly, with a disabled family member.
The HUD-VASH program is a collaboration between HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Through the program, homeless veterans and their families can receive a housing voucher from a PHA and supportive services through the VA. Instead of contacting a PHA and waiting for a spot to open, veterans contact their local VA Homeless Program to apply. If you aren't sure where your local program is, call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (838).
Certain states run programs similar to the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program. Since the local PHAs often have long waiting lists, the state-run programs are designed to provide temporary housing help to people in need. Priority is often given to elderly, disabled and homeless families with children. For example, New Jersey runs the State Rental Assistance Program, which provides housing for up to five years or until a Housing Choice Voucher is available. For seniors and elderly approved for the program, there are no limits to how long they can receive assistance. Like the Housing Choice Voucher program, programs are commonly reserved for low- and very-low-income households. Check with your state's department of community affairs or check your state's HUD website for a list of rental assistance programs.
Local County Agencies
Counties also run rental assistance programs. For example, Montgomery County, Maryland, runs the Rental Assistance Program open exclusively to county residents. At the time of publication, households of three must have a monthly income of $4,096 or less to qualify. Local Community Action Agencies are public and private organizations established by the government to help communities gain access to assistance programs. Check your local CAA for help finding a rental program.
Certain states don't offer rental assistance directly to individuals. Instead, they award grants to local nonprofit agencies and organizations to help people in danger of becoming homeless. For instance, Florida provides homeless prevention grants to local agencies who screen applicants. If approved, the agency sends a check directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant. Some nonprofit organizations that help with rent include: