Refugees, asylees and immigrants face difficult circumstances when they want to either rent or purchase their own homes. Lack of familiarity with the English language and the bureaucratic process of buying or renting prevent many immigrants, refugees and asylees from taking advantage of grants and housing assistance.
Immigrants and their families have the right to participate in some federally funded rental housing programs. Immigrants can get rental housing help from the federal government despite not having citizenship or a green card. Immigrants only have to verify that one person in the household, whether child or adult, is a U.S. citizen or an eligible immigrant. Rental housing subsidies are prorated to the number of eligible immigrants and citizens in the household.
Groups or families who have at least one household member that is an eligible immigrant can participate in housing programs available only to citizens. The subsidy will be prorated, however, as mentioned previously, if not all household members are citizens or eligible immigrants. Immigration status can be verified throughout the housing application process and afterward. Local housing authorities provide subsidized apartments. Section 8 housing, administered by local housing authorities, gives vouchers to give people choices of where to live. This program is for extremely low income families, the elderly and disabled. Section 101 is a rent supplement program for privately owned housing. The Federal Housing Administration also provides single family mortgage insurance for low-income and moderate-income families.
Permanent residents, refugees, asylees, those granted deportation withholding, conditional entrants and parolees from the Immigration and Naturalization Service or the Department of Homeland Security and several other immigrant classifications are considered eligible for these federal programs.
Federal funding for rental housing can provide subsidies to immigrants for their rent. In some cases, they may pay only 30 percent of their household income for rent. Apartments in rural areas under the Rural Housing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide subsidized housing for low-income immigrant families. Private landlords may also provide housing to low-income immigrant families under the Internal Revenue Service’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 811 program provides nonprofits with rental assistance and supportive housing for those with disabilities. Those with AIDS or HIV can receive help from a program called Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, which provides short-term help to stop homelessness as well as long-term rental help and facility-based housing. These services are available to individuals regardless of immigrant status.
Farm Labor Housing loans and grants give farm owners low-cost financing to build affordable rental housing for farm laborers and their families. They may also use the funds to build related facilities like child care centers. In heavily subsidized units, tenants pay 30 percent of their household income.
Some private organizations also provide housing assistance. The Korean American Community Foundation, for example, provided $24,000 in grant funds to the Flushing Immigrant Housing Initiative in 2010. This program provides a variety of housing assistance and counseling to Koreans and Asians in the U.S.
KOR Consulting, formerly Mercy Housing’s Refugee Program, provides valuable information and free publications for refugees and asylees on renting rights and homeownership on its website. Many of its materials are available in other languages. This site is an important resource for immigrant, refugee and asylee housing and case managers.
Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.