Updated: Mar 8
No one can predict the future and we may find ourselves in a position where it becomes difficult to pay the rent for the roof over our heads. We may have lost a job, hours decreased, or just at an impasse in life.
In challenging circumstances when you have lost your job or suffered an accident but still need to provide for your family, you may feel overwhelmed and frustrated when you cannot pay the rent.
Fortunately, rental assistance is a valuable option if you are struggling to pay for your home, no matter your situation.
Whether you or someone you know needs help to pay the rent, we take a closer look at where to find it, what type of rental assistance there is, and how to get your landlord on board if you are currently renting.
What is Rental Assistance?
Rental assistance is the financial aid or a subsidy provided to renters who cannot afford to cover the difference between the rent they can afford and the remaining balance. Low-income households contributing no more than 30% of their gross income to rent are eligible for rent assistance. However, even if you are contributing more than 30% we understand that times get hard.
Examples of rent assistance programs include federal government programs, private institutions, non-profit organizations, and affordable housing.
How Does Rental Assistance Work?
When a renter who falls into the low to medium income bracket (for the region/state) is unable to pay their full rent because of a change in financial circumstances (loss of income and employment) or doesn’t earn enough to cover their full monthly rent, then one can apply for temporary financial support from a rent assistance program.
If you’ve heard of Section 8, this would be an example of a rent assistance program. Individuals may be awarded a housing voucher to make up for the difference in rent that they cannot afford.
For those with financial difficulties or a family with children, there are both federal programs and non-profit initiatives dedicated to renting assistance.
What are the Different Types of Rental Assistance?
Tenant assistance includes public housing and Section 8 programs. A family or household eligible for assistance will receive a housing voucher that they can use in any subsidized housing program. If they move from one unit to another, the voucher can be used as a form of rent assistance provided the new apartment or rental home offers the same program.
An example of tenant assistance includes the HUD’s Section 8 or public housing.
Project-Related Rent Assistance
Project-related rent assistance involves a private housing company and a public housing agency.
The private owner or company will work with the subsidizing organization to issue rent assistance. This process only applies to certain types of housing units and households.
Project-driven programs are growing in popularity as landlords can charge higher rent for lower-income units. Households will pay up to 30% of their income on monthly rent and be subsidized to cover the balance. This makes rent assistance more attractive for housing project developers who cover their operational expenses and for renters who receive financial aid in secure, well-maintained rental units.
Short-Term vs. Long Term Rental Assistance
To understand which type of rent assistance program is for you, you need to know the difference between short-term (temporary) and long-term rent assistance.
Short-term Rent Assistance
A short-term rent assistance program provides temporary aid to tenants. You will most likely find temporary rent assistance from a private housing developer, charitable organizations, and non-profits.
Temporary rent assistance is offered to individuals who have fallen on difficult times and need some help paying their monthly rent until they can get back on their feet. It can include a reduction in rent or cash offered to settle outstanding rental balances.
Long-term Rent Assistance
Long-term rent assistance includes public housing and affordable housing. All subsidized programs offered by the federal government and the HUD are long-term programs in which households rely on monthly assistance to pay for their rent.
Where Can I Find Rental Assistance?
There are many types of rent assistance programs available. Let’s look at the most common programs you can apply to.
Government rent assistance programs include public housing and the HUD’s subsidized housing. Section 8 is a well-known program in which households are issued a voucher to cover all or part of the rent.
FEPS (Family Eviction Prevention Supplement) is a program offered by the New York-based State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance. It helps households with late rent payments including those who may be months in arrears.
You can also find the following state-related rent assistance programs:
The federal government will issue grants to qualifying applicants including families. You can find out about government grants to help you get the financing and support that you need.
You can contact HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program. This program helps low-income households with affordable housing.
Section 8 Housing Voucher programs are available for seniors, individuals with disabilities, and those living below the poverty line.
By contacting your local social services agency, you can learn of government and non-profit programs that are offered for rent assistance in your area. You can also look for a public assistance program to provide the appropriate housing support.
Charities and many church organizations have programs available to help applicants with short-term financial assistance or once-off payments to reduce outstanding debts.
A community action agency can be found in different states and aims to connect individuals to government programs or assist with paying rent.
Families who are poverty-stricken can apply to federal assistance programs offering welfare benefits.
Can Someone on Disability Receive Rental Assistance?
Yes, individuals and households who have a family member or a child with a disability can qualify for rent assistance through the HUD and relevant government housing programs.
In California, individuals can receive rent assistance if there is a threat of losing their homes.
Depending on the state you live in, some programs will offer rent assistance including financial aid for security deposits and other housing expenses.
What is the Income Limit for Rental Assistance?
A household will qualify for rent assistance including public or affordable housing if their income meets the limits set by the HUD. The income standards determined by the HUD include comparisons of median gross income to the area or region.
Remember, income does not only refer to the monthly wage you receive from an employer but all types of income from every member of the household (excluding minors).
An average of 1 in 4 families will receive housing or rent assistance. Owing to the restrictions placed on financial aid and stringent qualifying criteria. Households are placed on a waiting list prior to approval.
A family must provide proof that they are paying 30% of their income towards rent. The government will provide reductions for the elderly and for families who are living with disabilities.
How Do I Qualify for Rental Assistance?
Individuals and households will need to show proof of being rent-burdened. Rent assistance is generally offered to those who are paying 30% to 50% of their gross income towards rent.
Eligibility for rent assistance will depend on the program you are applying for. If you are applying to the HUD for Section 8, Supportive Housing for the Elderly, or Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities, the HUD will evaluate the following criteria:
Special populations (seniors, veterans, and families with disabilities)
Can Non-Citizens Apply for Rent Assistance?
In order to qualify for rent assistance, all members of the family must either be a citizen of the US, or they must possess a Greencard (prove their non-citizen eligibility) to receive approval for rent assistance.
For families where some members are citizens and others are not, there is the option of accessing prorated assistance. To understand the terms and conditions in qualifying for rent assistance, please contact the local HUD agency. They can advise on the steps you need to take (including supporting documentation) to apply for rent assistance as a non-citizen.
How Special Populations Can Apply for Rental Assistance?
According to Section 202 of the HUD’s rent assistance or housing programs, elderly persons can apply for financial aid. The local government housing programs focus on dedicating specific units to qualifying families or elderly individuals. This may include the provision of housing vouchers.
How is Rent Calculated When Applying through the HUD?
To help you improve your chances of qualifying for rent assistance with the HUD, it is important to understand how rent is calculated.
Families will receive a subsidy based on their gross income, their rent contributions, and the difference needed to settle the outstanding rent.
A family should contribute no more than 40% of their adjusted income to rent within the first year of paying for rent. There is the option of paying for a subsidized home or finding a market apartment with equivalent rent. You have the option to pay the difference between the subsidy issued by the HUD and the outstanding rent, but again this should not exceed 40% of the household income.
Speaking to Your Landlord about Rent Assistance
If you have fallen on tough times, and you cannot afford your rent, speak to your landlord. Many landlords are familiar with rent assistance programs and can direct you to the relevant organizations and even federal agencies in your area.
You can also ask them if they will accept a subsidized payment for the monthly rent.
If you are renting for the first time with subsidized income for housing, talk to your landlord about it. Perhaps you will need to pay a higher security deposit or rent but only once you discuss your financial situation with the landlord can you determine whether they are on board and you can proceed with a lease agreement.
Rental Assistance & YOU
When you need help with monthly rent, don’t feel ashamed or afraid to reach out! There are many individuals and families who are struggling to pay rent, especially with the recent economic challenges related to COVID-19.
With options for rent assistance, more individuals and households can find ways to supplement their monthly rent and maintain their housing.
What is great about rent assistance programs is that many of these are flexible. If a household wishes to move to another apartment offering acceptance of subsidies or financial aid, they can continue to use their housing vouchers at their new rental.
If you need assistance with rent, we encourage you to contact the relevant agencies and organizations. There are options available to you, and with the right help on your side, you can afford your rent and a place to call your own.