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How to Apply for Affordable Senior Housing

Finances | May 31, 2023

Two seniors sitting on a bench, celebrating their new, affordable accommodations.

When searching for an assisted living facility or independent living community, some seniors and caregivers might find that they are unable to afford certain communities. Seniors living on Social Security and retirement savings have fixed incomes, making it difficult to afford a potential accommodation. This common issue can cause unnecessary stress and burden for those that are trying to find a nice home for their loved one to spend their retirement.

That’s why it’s critical for those on a fixed income to explore different housing options and government programs that will ease their financial burdens. Let’s take a deeper look into affordable senior housing – what it is, what assistance programs are available, how to qualify, and how to apply – so you can make an informed decision about where you or your loved one should live.

What is Affordable Senior Housing?

The phrase “affordable” can change in meaning greatly depending on the person. In the context of affordable senior housing, we’re referring to housing options that low-income seniors or those living on a fixed income can afford. Affordable senior housing generally pertains to government subsidized rental units that have been made available to seniors. Monthly costs at senior living facilities can be made more affordable by:

  • Government subsidies
  • Credits
  • Vouchers

Regardless of income level, seniors should not be spending more than a third of their monthly budget on costs associated with housing.

What Assistance Programs are Available?

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers programs that help financially support seniors who can’t afford housing. Oftentimes, the government will offer a subsidized payment based on 30% of you or your loved one’s monthly income. If you or your loved one earns $2,000 a month, you would only have to pay $600 a month for housing.

Affordable HUD housing facilities tend to fill up fast, so it is best to reach out as soon as you can to a local HUD housing counselor who specializes in your location.
The following assistance programs are offered by the U.S. government to make housing more affordable for older adults:

Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers

Seniors who meet certain income requirements may qualify for HUD’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, which provides payment vouchers to help people afford their rent. Local Public Housing Agencies (PHA) distribute the vouchers, but it’s up to you and/or your caregiver to find your ideal living arrangements. Once you find an ideal apartment, condo, or other housing option, you must work with the property owner to agree to rent under the program. The PHA will pay your landlord directly, and you’ll pay the difference.
Low-income seniors who qualify for the program can apply through their local Public Housing Agency.

Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly

Section 202 supportive housing for the elderly is a federal housing program that provides affordable rental housing for low-income elderly individuals. The purpose of the program is to help seniors age in place by providing them with safe and supportive housing that meets their needs. These units are intended for independent living, but often offer added services such as cooking, cleaning, and transportation.

HUD does not manage the leasing of Section 202 properties. To locate participating locations, you can visit the HUD online resource locator.

Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program

The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is a government funded program that encourages developers to build more affordable housing communities. Credits, in the form of tax breaks, are awarded to developers that build communities that offer units to tenants whose incomes are no more than 50-80% of the median income of the area.

Unlike Section 8 and Section 202, properties participating in the LIHTC program do not base the price of rent off of your income. Potential residents still must meet the income eligibility requirements to apply for housing. The LIHTC program can work in tandem with Section 8, allowing seniors to use housing vouchers to pay for an LIHTC unit.

Just like the Housing Choice Voucher Program, LIHTC is not a program specific to seniors, and because it bases its rent on the income levels of the surrounding area, unit cost has the potential to be higher than some seniors might be willing to pay.

HUD offers a database to find participating LIHTC communities near you.

 Additional Assistance Programs

Additional assistance is also available for people who meet certain qualifications:

Does Medicaid Pay for Senior Housing?

Figuring out what Medicaid is willing to pay for can be challenging. Unfortunately, Medicaid does not cover room and board. It cannot be used to pay for low-income senior housing or lodging at an assisted living facility. Medicaid, however, can help decrease overall expenses and help you afford certain assisted living services including nursing and personal care. For a complete list of services covered by Medicaid, check with your state’s program.

Do I Qualify for Affordable Senior Housing?

Every low-income senior housing program will have its own set of criteria for eligibility. The two main requirements involve age and income level. On top of the base levels for entry, each program prioritizes seniors who need the most help. To help clear up any confusing details, we will cover the eligibility requirements for each program.

Section 8 Eligibility

To be considered eligible for Section 8 housing, your or your loved ones’ household income cannot exceed more than 50% of the median income limit in your area. Your local PHA will be able to help you determine if you or your loved one meets the requirement for your area. If the income limit requirement is met, applicants will be required to provide legal documents to prove identity, age, banking information, and background information. Because housing vouchers are not senior specific, the only age requirement is that the head of household must be at least 18 years of age.

Once you submit this information to a local PHA, you are placed on a waiting list and contacted as soon as your housing voucher is ready.

Section 202 Eligibility

To apply for Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, seniors must meet the following requirements:

There are strict guidelines on who can and who cannot reside within an affordable senior living community. After this information is collected, applicants will undergo a verification process that involves background checks, credit reports, and calls to prior landlords.

Common factors that could cause an issue with your application include:

  • Prior eviction from HUD housing within the last five years
  • Prior termination of assistance by a housing authority for any reason
  • Debt to a housing authority
  • Criminal records

LIHTC Eligibility

To qualify for LIHTC housing, you must meet the income requirements of the specific property, which typically means you must make less than the average median income. Usually, you’ll need to earn within 30-70% of the median income in your area. Income requirements depend on the unit and the number of members in the household. There is no age requirement to apply as the LIHTC program is not limited to seniors.

There are a few common factors that could potentially result in your application being disqualified, including:

  • Poor rental history
  • Low credit score
  • Falsified information in application
  • Criminal record

How do I Apply for Assistance?

Once you determine that you or your loved one qualifies for government housing assistance, you can begin applying for affordable housing. The application process differs between Section 8 and Section 202. Get started by reviewing the application process for each program below.

How to Apply for Section 8 Housing

Seniors interested in obtaining a housing choice voucher must apply through their local Public Housing Authority. Appointments are only given during an open enrollment period. Each state and locality have their own enrollment period that opens periodically. It is important to check with local PHAs to determine if enrollment is open at their specific location. Applications are usually available online, by mail, or in the housing authority’s office.

Applications tend to be multiple pages and will ask for:

  • Household information (including name, gender, date of birth, and Social Security Number, income and assets).
  • Previous housing history.
  • Employment and income information.

Once you have submitted the application, you will be put on a waiting list and notified when you are eligible to receive your voucher. Due to the high demand for section 8 housing, this period could take some time.

How to Apply for Section 202 Housing

Qualified applicants will need to contact a property manager participating in the Section 202 program. Contact a local HUD office to find a participating property. Seniors will be required to complete an application either online, by phone or at the property site. Be aware that most applications do require a fee. If you or your loved one are unable to complete the application themselves, they may have another person do it on their behalf.

The length of the application may vary depending on the property. Regardless, most applications will require basic information such as:

  • Household net income
  • Housing history
  • Criminal history

Applications take time to be approved, and you may wait for a couple of weeks or months for your application to be processed. If your application is approved, you will move on to the final step in the process, the interview. Once there is an available apartment for you, the property manager will contact you for an in-person interview to determine your eligibility before finally giving you the accommodation.

How to Apply to Live in a LIHTC Property

To get started, you can search the HUD LIHTC Database or the LIHTC apartment search tool for a participating property. The property must have an open waiting list or immediate availability for you to apply. If the waiting list is closed, you’ll have to continue looking for other properties. Wait times for these properties may be longer depending on the area. Once you find a property that has open enrollment, you’ll be able to obtain an application online or at the property’s rental office. Keep in mind, you may be required to pay an application fee.

After you submit your application, you’ll likely enter a waiting period. You will need to wait for your application to process, which may take a week or more.

Find Affordable Senior Housing with National Church Residences

Every senior deserves a safe and comfortable home, regardless of income level. If you or your elderly parents have financial limits and need help finding the right senior living community, you can turn to National Church Residences. As a leader in affordable senior housing, our goal is to support seniors of every income level and help them live a healthier, more satisfying lifestyle. Find out which affordable senior living options are in your area or give us a call at 844-465-6063 to talk to one of our friendly staff members today.

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