How Does Housing Assistance Work?

••• Mary R. Vogt

How Does Housing Assistance Work?

Housing assistance is a federally-funded program that provides safe and affordable homes for low-income people and families as well as the elderly and disabled. The funds are allocated to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and then distributed to public housing authorities, or PHAs, across the nation. Typically, each county has its own public housing authority that determines which residents receive assistance. The three main types of housing assistance are: low-rent apartments, public housing and Section 8 housing, all of which are funded by the HUD.

Who Receives Housing Assistance?

There are certain requirements that must be met in order to receive any form of housing assistance. The person needing this assistance will contact his or her local PHA to apply. Typically, in order to qualify for housing assistance, the recipient's household income must be less than 50 percent of the median income in that particular area. The applicant must provide his or her previous rental history, the names and salary information of each person residing with him/her, present address and employment information as well as the reason he or she is requesting assistance. Once this information is confirmed, the applicant is eligible to receive housing assistance. Unfortunately, most areas have long waiting lists for housing assistance. This means that applicants will more than likely have to wait for the funds to become available. Although each area differs, it can often take a year or more for an individual's name to reach the top of the waiting list. Priority is usually given to those applicants who have urgent needs due to homelessness, domestic abuse, etc.

Who Pays the Housing Payment?

Once the applicant reaches the top of the waiting list, the PHA will contact him or her. At this time, a housing voucher will be provided to the individual and his or her household. This voucher can be used to find suitable housing anywhere in the United States. In order to be classified as suitable, the home or apartment must be inspected for safety, have reasonably-priced rent and be owned by an individual or company who agrees to participate in the housing assistance program. If the applicant's current home meets these guidelines, then he or she may use the housing voucher for that residence. The recipient will have only 60 days to find adequate housing, although an extension may be requested if needed. After securing housing, the PHA will then pay a subsidized amount to the recipient's landlord (80 percent). The recipient is then responsible for the remaining 20 percent. In some areas, housing assistance can also help recipients buy a home.