How Does Marriage Affect Public Housing?

How Does Marriage Affect Public Housing?
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Public housing provides low-cost apartments, townhomes and single family homes to disabled and elderly persons and to low-income families with children. Eligibility criteria for public housing can vary depending on the area, but in general, the bigger the household, the higher the maximum allowable income. A married couple can bring in more income than a single person and still qualify. If you get married while in public housing, your joint incomes will need to be under the two-person maximum to continue to stay and pay the reduced rent.

Public Housing Overview

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, developed the public housing program to provide safe, affordable homes to low-income individuals, couples and families. There are over one million households living in public housing across the United States, according to HUD. Eligibility is determined locally by public housing authority offices based on your gross income as compared to your area's median income; whether you're 65 years of age or older, disabled or a family with children; and what your U.S. citizenship or legal alien status is.

Public Housing Income Qualifications

The income maximum is based on the median income of your city or county. Low-income households have gross incomes that are 80 percent or less of the median income of your area. Very low-income households have incomes at 50 percent or less of the median income and extremely low-income households have incomes at 30 percent or less of your area's median income. Larger households have higher median incomes. For example, in Fresno County, California, the median income for a four-person household in 2011 is $54,700. An individual would be considered low-income if his annual income is $32,050 or less. A couple would be considered low-income if their annual income is $36,600 or less. Marriage raises the maximum income to qualify for public housing, but it doesn't double it, so it may make qualifying for public housing more difficult, depending on your income and your spouse's income.

Public Housing Rent

Public housing units charge rent based on a percentage of the household's income. The rent determination program is called the Total Tenant Payment, or TTP. Your public housing authority office looks at your household's gross income. The incomes of all household members over the age of 18 are counted. You can deduct $480 for each child and $400 for each family member 65 years of age or over or disabled. You may be able to deduct some medical costs as well. Once the housing office has determined your gross income, you're required to pay the maximum rent as determined by one of the following options: 30 percent of your monthly adjusted income, 10 percent of your monthly income, welfare rent (if applicable in your area) or the minimum rent required in your area (generally $25 or $50 per month). If you're married, your rent will probably be higher because your income is higher. A spouse's situation may, however, result in enough income adjustments to keep your rent the same, particularly if your spouse is elderly or disabled and has significant medical expenses.

Disqualifying for Public Housing

If your marriage results in a significantly higher income, your local public housing office can require you to move as long as there is affordable housing available on the private market. Your public housing authority is required to re-examine your household's income at least once per year to determine continued eligibility.