Individuals seeking low-income senior housing have several options depending on their community, age and residency status. State and local non-profit agencies administer many of the low-income senior housing programs.
Individuals can begin their search by contacting their local Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office. The HUD program offers a variety of services to help seniors locate affordable housing. Additionally, the agency can provide referrals to other agencies that may be able to help.
Alternatively, seniors may contact homeless shelters for elderly individuals to inquire about housing recommendations. Many shelters can provide stays from several days up to several months. Seniors may be able to utilize a homeless shelter in the event of an emergency. In addition, the homeless shelter administrators may have referrals to agencies who can work with the individual to locate suitable housing. Senior citizens who are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces may find assistance through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA). Veterans should contact the VA for further information on the low-income housing for seniors and disabled services offered.
HUD administers what is known as the Section 8 program to provide affordable senior housing to qualified individuals. The Section 8 program, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher program, offers affordable housing in the way of rent subsidies. Through the program, seniors receive a voucher they may use to locate housing of their preference. Upon securing a place to live, the program pays a portion of the rent while the program participant pays the balance.
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The senior’s income may not exceed 50 percent of the median income for the area to qualify. Seniors must apply to the program through one of HUDs local Public Housing Authorities. Due to high-demand for affordable senior housing, there may be a waitlist. Once approved for the program, beneficiaries may use their voucher to find a place to live. The HUD then inspects the unit. Once it passes inspection, HUD pays a portion of the rent on behalf of the senior.
In addition to Section 8, HUD provides affordable senior housing in what is known as public housing units. These units are living spaces, homes or apartments, managed by HUD Housing Agencies in each state. Seniors qualify for this program based on their income. In general, the senior’s income may not exceed 80 percent of the median income for the area.
Seniors must apply for the program and undergo an in-home assessment to be considered for public housing. There is often a waiting list. Thus, affordable senior housing applicants may face long wait times for housing as the list is first-come-first-served. There are instances however, when an applicant can move up the list quicker than others. The program gives special consideration to those within income at or below 50 percent of the median income for the area. Also, applicants who are homeless, living in substandard housing or currently paying more than 50 percent of their income on rent receive higher priority on the list.
Seniors who can live independently with the help of support services may qualify for low-income senior housing through the HUD Section 202 program. The program offers affordable senior housing in facilities that provide assistive services such as transportation, cooking and laundry. Seniors must be 62 years of age to qualify and their income may not exceed 50 percent of the median income for the area. HUD considers income and assets when calculating adjusted monthly income as follows:
Program participants must be U.S. citizens or have an eligible noncitizen status to qualify for Section 202. Eligible noncitizens must provide documentation of their citizenship status. Acceptable documents include an Alien Registration Receipt Card, I-94 Arrival-Departure record or a For I688 Employment.
Once approved for the program, the agency calculates the rent the senior must pay. Participants usually spend no more than 30 percent of the household’s adjusted monthly income.
The VA offers low-income senior housing benefits to qualified elderly veterans. To qualify for the VA affordable housing program, vets must be eligible for VA healthcare. The program is a joint effort between the VA and HUD. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) provides rental assistance in the form of vouchers. Vets must meet eligibility criteria for both HUD and the VA to participate in the program. Veterans work with their assigned case manager to develop a plan to reduce further occurrences of homelessness. The case manager may refer the individual to other services such as mental health, substance abuse, long-term housing and restorative therapy.
Many affordable senior housing programs require little to no out-of-pocket costs for the senior. However, there senior should be aware of all financial resources available to help make paying for affordable senior housing less of a financial stress. Social Security benefits provide a monthly income to those who have earned enough work credits to qualify. The amount paid varies per individual and is based on the person’s earnings prior to applying for the program.
If the senior is disabled, they may apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The SSDI insurance provides seniors with qualifying disabilities a monthly payment. The amount of the payment for each of these options correlates to the length of the individual’s employment and their pay rate. Lastly, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program that gives participants a monthly income to help pay for daily living expenses. Those seeking low-income senior housing may apply for any of the Social Security programs at any time, regardless of their living situation. These programs are especially helpful for homeless seniors, as they provide assistance for at risk elderly applicants.
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