top of page

Low-Income Housing? Do I Qualify?

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

If you’ve fallen on hard times and paying too much rent or your earnings are part of a low-income bracket, you'll want to know whether you qualify for low cost and affordable housing.

Low-Income housing is one of the best options when you need an apartment to rent and that you can afford.

Remember, the ability to afford your rent every month means security and a roof over your head.

It is also an opportunity to save money each month so you can eventually build a deposit and buy a house, even on a low income.

To help you learn whether you can benefit from low-income housing, the following guide details what low-income housing is, what you should be earning to qualify, and how to get approved. We explore everything you should know about low-income housing, so you can make valuable and informed decisions for your family and your financial future.

Make informed decisions.
What Decision Would You Make? - Housing Infographic

What Exactly is Low-Income Housing?

Affordable housing and low income housing began in 1934 in the US. It was passed into law by congress who created the Federal Housing Administration. In 1937, the US Housing Act allowed private developers and businesses to make public housing available to low income earners.

Today, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), if your gross expenses including your utilities are less than 30% of your gross income then a home is considered affordable.

Before we can understand affordability, we need to understand what low income is...

What is Considered Low Income in the United States?

In 2019, 29% of Americans were considered as low income. Low-earning households in the US are those who earn below two-thirds of the national median income. But affordable housing qualifying criteria are not that easy to calculate. It also differs depending on the state that you live in.

For example:

A household of 4 living in San Francisco is considered low income if they earn $100 000 per year. In places such as Washington, Los Angeles, and New York, the household income must equate to $70 000 per year for the same number of people and children, to be considered low income.

To help you determine your income for qualifying purposes, you can visit the HUD 2017 Income Limits.

Once you have determined whether you fall into the low income bracket for your state, you can start looking at affordable housing options whether you are single or a family.

*Special consideration by the government is given to children, seniors, and those with disabilities for public and affordable housing assistance.

Low-Income housing is determined by a government standard based on what you earn. To avoid unmanageable debts and burdened finances, a home you can afford with all the comforts and the security can be found with qualifying low-income apartments.

Looking for affordable or low-income housing can be overwhelming and confusing. You're aware of the affordable housing stereotype and yes, there are low cost rentals in unfavorable neighborhoods, but not all low income rentals offer the same features. You can find low income or affordable housing to suit your lifestyle and your pocket.

Our goal is to help you along your housing journey by looking at the options below

Types of Low-Income Housing

Many are confused by “low-income housing.” This includes a perception that it is only government-funded or Section 8. Unfortunately, this can lead to a missed opportunity to afford a rental without financial assistance. To determine which housing options are available to you, we look at different types of housing.

The Difference Between Low Cost and Affordable Housing

Low cost housing includes apartments to rent that are only available for those who fall into a low income bracket. Such households may qualify for public or section 8 housing voucher programs. Affordable housing is also income based but determined by what you can manage financially. This includes an assessment of your income less your living expenses and rent. Such households may qualify for an affordable home but not section 8.

Section 8

The Section 8 program subsidizes low-income families with the government issue of a “housing voucher” to make up the difference in affordability for rent. These vouchers can only be used for properties that qualify as Section 8 housing.

Public Housing

A local housing company or authority governs public housing for low-income families. Qualifying criteria and rent are based on what applicants can afford.

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing is available for low to median-income families. In such instances, you must show that you can afford the monthly rent and that it does not exceed 30% of your monthly income. Rent does not include a subsidy and you are responsible for the payment of rent.


1. Is There an Affordable Housing Shortage in the US?

2. What is HUD Housing?

Choose Affordable Housing.
Affordable Housing with Beauty

Where Can You Learn More About Qualifying?

A simple way to learn of the qualifying criteria for low-income housing is to visit our Housing Application & FAQ page. Here you will find a complete list of resources that breakdown just what you need to do to apply and to qualify for your next rental.

What Will I Be Paying for Rent?

An important part of low-income housing is whether you can afford the rent each month. By understanding what you will be paying, you can best manage your expenses including any outstanding debts you’re currently paying off.

If we go back to the example of the 30% housing rule, you can determine whether the cost of future rent constitutes 30% or more of your earnings. If so, you may apply for section-8 assisted housing. The amount of rent you will pay will differ based on the community/neighborhood, the number of bedrooms, and the overall size of the apartment.

If we look at the rental costs for a low-income family of 3, the average rent is $500 - $540 per month.

For landlords, a calculation of the average income per applicant and overall affordability can influence the monthly rent.


1. Where do I Find Low-Income Housing?

2. What are My Options for Low-Income Housing?

Do you qualify for low-income or affordable housing?
Does Your Income Qualify?

How Do I Know if I Qualify for Affordable Housing?

You can determine whether you qualify for low-income housing by contacting the HUD or your public housing/Section 8 authorities. Whether you contact your local housing authority or an affordable housing landlord, you must provide proof of income. This can include a pay stub, an IRS tax certificate, or an invoice.

Remember that every applicant will be subject to a background check. This includes eviction history, credit reports, and any criminal records.

*Only US citizens can apply for affordable housing programs.

How Do I Apply for Low-Income Housing?

Start by working out what your gross salary is per month, then deduct your living expenses. The percentage of income remaining is the portion you can contribute to your monthly rent. Before you apply, you can determine whether you qualify for low-income or affordable apartments.

The next step of the application process is to contact the landlord or your housing authority and to learn of the application criteria. Common requirements include proof of income (including bank statements), proof of employment, and a credit check.

You can also learn how to improve your chances for a rental by checking out our apartment approval guide. We break down the steps you can take to improve the acceptance of your apartment application.

How Long Does It Take to Get Approved for Low-Income Housing?

Affordable housing applications work in the same way as regular property rental applications. Send your documents to the landlord or property manager concerning the available rental andwithin 24 to 72 hours, you should receive a response for the lease approval.

When applying for Section 8 housing, the process works a little differently. You will apply to a housing authority governing Section 8 applications and be placed on a waiting list. Depending on your earnings and the costs for rent, you will receive a voucher you can use towards monthly rentals.

The HUD offers subsidized rent for low-income veterans and seniors. If you fall into these applicant categories, consult with the HUD to learn more about these options.


1. What Exactly is Low-Income Housing?

2. What are the Benefits of Low-Income Housing for Families?

Educate yourself on low income/affordable housing
Educate Yourself on the Types of Housing

Can I Use a Housing Voucher in My Apartment/Rental Application?

Only if you are a qualifying Section 8 applicant will you be able to use a government-issued voucher towards rent. The housing voucher only pays the difference between what an applicant can afford and the actual rent amount.

What are Some of the Eligibility Criteria for Low Income Housing?

Income qualifications will vary depending on the type of property you are interested in.

Every low-income housing application will have a set of qualifying criteria such as affordability, credit history, and proof of a full-time income/salary.

If you have negative credit, bankruptcy, or a previous eviction, you should consider second chance renting which is part of the affordable housing market.

Second chance apartments offer the benefits of both affordability and consideration of tenants with a less than desirable credit or eviction history.

What is HUD Housing?

The HUD issues federal housing to a housing agency. These housing agencies will then determine which residents qualify for the rent according to low-income criteria. The role of the HUD is to oversee the development and management of these properties.

How Do I Qualify for HUD Housing?

Hud housing differs between affordable housing applications. If you are considered below the low-income bracket, then HUD Housing may be an applicable option for your rental needs. Families who qualify for the HUD rental will earn below the 30% affordability requirement. When you apply to the HUD, specific eligibility criteria will be considered including your annual income before tax.