Established in the 1960s, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) embraces a three-fold mission: expand homeownership, spur economic development in towns and cities and ensure access to affordable dwelling units while barring discrimination. By and large, state and local housing authorities adopt these same aims. Agencies achieve these goals through myriad programs like tax credits, rental assistance, opportunity zones and publicly owned apartment buildings.
There are multiple criteria of eligibility with each service in terms of income, employment, legal status, disability and household size. Of course, marital status is a factor for consideration since it touches every other criterion.
Public Housing Rules for Married People
Over a million households occupy public housing units in the United States. These are generally, but not always, high-rise or low-rise buildings, clustered in city blocks. Sometimes, these developments are known as "housing projects." While these residential communities are funded by HUD, management is almost always carried out by state and local housing agencies. These offices use gross income as the determinant for whether a married couple qualifies for a unit.
Income limits vary by state and region but will always be measured using the combined figure. A tweak to the revenue yardstick could be made when other factors are accounted for. These include age, disability and citizenship status.
Section 8 Assistance and Married Couples
Section 8 differs from public housing in that the landlord is a private entity or individual. Passed in 1974 as a provision of the Housing and Community Development Act, Section 8 supplements discounted rental payments with HUD funds paid to property owners. This allows low-income earners to live in quieter and less crowded environments than those found in traditional housing projects.
Those eligible for Section 8 assistance receive a voucher with which they can locate a residential community that participates in the program. Over five million people in the U.S. occupy Section 8 units.
Married people can qualify for this housing assistance just as single people can. Key to their eligibility is that their joint income falls under a designated threshold. In most cases, the housing authority determines the median income of the area where the applicants seek to go, and individuals, couples or families can not have a combined income that exceeds 50 percent of that figure. How far the household income falls below the median dictates how much assistance the government provides to the couple.
Special Cases in Section 8 Housing
Women can continue to get Section 8 assistance when married but separated, especially if they can demonstrate their status as sole breadwinner for the family. The voucher amount could go up or, alternatively, a public housing unit may be made available. Government assistance while separated will vary by state since states have divergent rules regarding separation and divorce.
For non-spousal partners, separation can be evaluated case by case. Variables affecting the evaluation by the housing authority are many, including domestic violence, children, elderly dependents and other causes/effects of separation.
The parties subsidizing Section 8 housing have a vested interest in the stability of families living in their dwellings. All applicants for Section 8 must undergo an extensive criminal background check. All prior felonies and misdemeanors are usually discovered by such an investigation and housing authority officials have the right to reject an application on that basis, though felons can still qualify in many parts of the United States.
What if an approved resident later marries? Section 8 rules on getting married to a felon mandate that the resident report the new spouse's record to the housing authority. Drug traffickers and sex offenders are usually refused housing benefits.
Adam Luehrs is a writer during the day and a voracious reader at night. He focuses mostly on finance writing and has a passion for real estate, credit card deals, and investing.