What Documents Do I Need to Get Affordable Housing?

Updated: Jan 19

There are many different types of affordable or public housing for those interested in renting in a low to mid-income bracket. When you are ready to apply for Section 8 or Public Housing, remember that you’ll probably be placed on a long waiting list. In the meantime, it is important to prepare for your application by learning whether you are actually eligible to rent one of these homes including the documents that are needed once you reach the top of the waiting list.


Woman holding paperwork
Check your application in detail to ensure it's accurate

Why Choose An Affordable Housing Program?


Affordable housing programs range from subsidized housing as with the Section 8 voucher program to public housing where you pay rent based on how much you earn per month. Other types of subsidized housing programs include rentals that are owned by private developers yet subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).


The major benefit of choosing the affordable housing programs offered by the HUD and private developers is to help those with a low-income pay reduced monthly rent and avoid the possibility of living from paycheck to paycheck.


If you are considering affordable housing but aren’t sure of the process or what to expect in your application, we look at the steps that you can take to prepare.


An infographic explaining the documents needed to prepare for an affordable housing application.
Preparing for Affordable Housing Applications

How Does an Affordable Housing Application Work?


When you consider affordable housing, it is best to apply to a few places in neighborhoods that you’d prefer to live in. This can increase your chances of getting approved for a rental unit.

By visiting the HUD’s website, you can find a list of both Government subsidized and affordable housing communities in areas of interest.


If you aren’t sure how to go about finding the desired housing, then contact the HUD and speak to a representative who can assist.


Am I Eligible?


Your eligibility to rent an apartment or subsidized house will depend on how much you earn per month and whether you have any alternative sources of income. Rent is generally set at 30% or less than your monthly salary.


Low-income housing is available to those who earn less than the median income for a specific state or area.


What Is Considered Low-Income?


The Government states that an income level that falls below double the Federal Poverty Level for a single person is considered low income. For one person who earns less than $25 000 per year, they would be deemed as low income.


It is important to note that anyone can apply for affordable housing provided they meet the income limits and qualifying criteria (concerning the submission of documents). This includes housing for families, single parents, veterans, and seniors. With 1 in 5 millennials living below the poverty line, a younger generation of people is also looking for economical housing solutions.


Young men and women holding hands
More youth are looking for affordable housing to rent

How the Low Income Housing Bracket Has Changed?


Since the 2020 pandemic and market downturn, more people have returned to work but at significantly reduced salaries and with lower job security. This has led to a higher number of mid-income families earning less per year and who are also in search of affordable rentals.

While many have considered low-income communities as "those that rely on handouts," this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many people work long hours, work more than one job, and dedicate much of their lives to the service sector hardly getting time to spend with their families. In 2011 alone, families of 4 with 2 children who were living below the poverty line were working and earning an annual salary of around $22 811.


In 2020, there were just over 37 million people living below the poverty line in the US. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough economical housing options for those who are actively looking and applying for low-cost homes to rent. As the demand continues to exceed the supply, the Government has proceeded with additional housing developments and partnered with private developers to offer residents subsidized housing, but this still isn’t enough to assist the people who have been on public housing waiting lists for years.


To help you with housing in the low-income sector, it is important to take the time to learn about the options for housing and which of these best apply to your situation. This way, you can better plan, both financially and psychologically, for the steps that you’ll need to take to secure a home of your choosing.


Steps to Apply – An Affordable Home to Rent


Visit the website of the HUD or your state's housing provider to find a list of the different types of affordable housing of interest. Download the necessary application or complete it electronically (if you are given the option).


Answer each question on the application honestly. If you have a criminal record or a past eviction (in the last 7 years), it is important not to conceal these details. Should the service provider find that you have falsified or hidden information, they can reject your application.


What Documents Will I Need?


You will need to submit personal documentation with your application for low-cost or low-income homes to rent. Applications for a specific type of affordable housing can be found online with the HUD, the website of a local housing authority or organization, and by visiting the office of the relevant housing authorities in your state.


If you are single, then you’ll only need to arrange documentation for yourself but for households of more than 1 person, all of the members who will be moving into Government-owned or funded property will need to have the following documents prepared for submission:


  • Social security cards

  • Birth certificates

  • Proof of income


Should you earn a low monthly salary, but you have alternative sources of income, don’t try to hide the additional income from officials or housing authorities. It could result in the termination of your lease and an inability to access public or subsidized housing in the future.

Once you have completed the application and attached the requested documents, you can either scan and submit a digital version or you can deliver it to the office where you first obtained the application forms.


Be sure to keep copies of your submission and always request a receipt as proof of your application. For digital submissions, take a screenshot of a successful submission and any emails that are sent as acknowledgment. Keeping track of which types of housing you’ve applied for, the dates, and who you’ve spoken to about your application will also help you to monitor the process and ensure that your application is reviewed, and you are placed on the list. The application is only the first part and only after it has been assessed and approved by the relevant authorities will you be placed on a waiting list for the availability of a rental.


A running track with lanes
The race to the top is slow and steady but never give up hope!

Should you find that your application is rejected, you’ll receive a notice along with the denial which should provide further instruction on the options available to you. In some cases, you can appeal the denial and reapply according to the regulations and the relevant due dates.


When you apply for affordable housing, at any point you could be moved up the list or perhaps win the public housing lottery and be contacted by the HUD or the relevant housing authority in your state. It also means that you need to have the correct documents on hand and ready to submit to secure your application and your spot for a cost-effective rental.


Once Your Name Reaches the Top of the List


Once you have reached the top of the application list, you will receive a notification such as an email and phone call from your housing provider. You will usually have to make an appointment to meet with the relevant housing agents where they will assess your application and ask for updated information. You’ll need to bring the requested documents once you’re considered for placement into an affordable apartment or house to rent.


The documents that are requested for your appointment include:

  • Social security cards/details for each household member

  • The last 3 to 4 paychecks or a notarized statement concerning proof of income

  • Birth certificates for every household member

  • An ID photograph of all household members over the age of 18

  • Any documentation concerning the collection of food stamps and child support

Preparing for Affordable Housing


Moving into a new home with a monthly rent that you can afford is a wonderful opportunity to save, to get back on your feet, and find your family a secure roof over their heads. Without living on the poverty line or relying on your last paycheck, you'll hopefully have some extra cash to put away and save, you could even save on a low income to buy a house one day!


While the road to getting approved and accepted for an affordable place to rent can be a long and challenging one but remaining hopeful and staying on top of your application can help you find affordability and a rewarding tenancy where you and your loved ones feel safe.


A family standing in a doorway
Affordable hosuing is available for youth, seniors, and veterans

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