Americans who need help to pay monthly rent can receive assistance through federally funded programs. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development sponsors the majority of housing programs in the U.S. and administers benefits nationwide through local public housing agencies. While the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development programs serve as the foundation for housing assistance in urban areas, rural residents may qualify for rent assistance programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program
HUD's Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program provides assistance for families and individuals who are currently homeless or face the risk of homelessness. HPRP benefits can include case management, utility assistance, rent assistance and money to pay for security deposits. HUD makes HPRP funds available to states, counties and cities, which administer benefits at a local level. According to HUD, the HPRP received $1.5 billion in 2009, with more than $820 million allocated for utility and rent assistance.
Housing Choice Voucher Program
HUD extends eligibility for the Housing Choice Voucher program to senior citizens, people with disabilities and low-income families. HCV participants can choose homes from the private rental housing market and receive a subsidy to help pay rent each month. The HCV program requires recipients to pay part of their rent, typically approximately 30 percent of their income, and the voucher pays the difference to the landlord. HUD operates the HCV program through local public housing agencies nationwide, which determine applicant eligibility and administer benefits. Approximately 2 million low-income American families receive HCV assistance, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates.
Family Unification Program
HUD's Family Unification Program provides a rent subsidy to families faced with losing custody of children due to inadequate housing. The FUP also offers up to 18 months of assistance for certain youth who have left the foster care system and need adequate housing. The FUP provides participants HCV rent subsidies, which they can use to rent housing from the private market. HUD administers the FUP through certain local public housing agencies, but the program is not offered in all areas of the United States.
Public Housing Program
The HUD Public Housing Program provides affordable housing for the disabled, elderly and low-income families. PHP housing comes in different types and styles, depending on location, which may include apartment units or single-family homes. Local public housing agencies determine applicant eligibility and manage public housing units. PHP participants typically pay approximately 30 percent of their incomes for rent. PHP tenants can typically live in public housing as long as they remain eligible and comply with lease terms. HUD estimated more than 3,000 public housing agencies participated in the PHP, providing homes for over 1 million American households.
Section 515 Housing
The Rural Housing Service division of the USDA administers the Section 515 housing program. Section 515 provides loans to individuals, organizations and Indian tribes, which recipients can use to provide affordable rural housing for the disabled, elderly and low- to moderate-income families. Section 515 tenants who lack the funds to pay basic rent may qualify for the USDA's Rural Rental Assistance program. The RRA program provides rent subsidies and typically requires participants to pay 30 percent of their income for rent.