Individuals and families with very low incomes might find themselves with little money left over for food, utilities and other expenses after paying the rent each month. Fortunately, federal, state and local governments provide grants to assist these people in obtaining affordable housing. Although the grant programs have eligibility requirements and often have waiting lists, these programs act as a lifesaver for needy families.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers many types of grants, usually in the form of vouchers. Section 8 grants, which are part of the Housing Choice Voucher Program, provides rental assistance so grantees do not have to pay more than 30 per cent of their income for rent.
Families separated from each other due to lack of affordable housing qualify for family unification vouchers. Veterans might consider applying for HUD-VASH grants, which provide rental assistance for homeless veterans with low incomes.
People with disabilities might qualify for federal vouchers for people with disabilities. Working families recently on welfare can apply for federal welfare-to-work grants for rental assistance.
Individuals living in rural areas can apply for rental assistance grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which offers help to low-income senior citizens, disabled individuals, families and domestic farm labourers, and families whose rents exceed 30 per cent of their annual income.
State governmental agencies offer rental assistance grants to residents who meet specified eligibility requirements; most states follow the HUD eligibility guidelines. State housing authorities, such as the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, provide subsidies for 24,000 Housing Choice Vouchers for residents to apply to private rental homes and apartments. Eligibility for the program includes income guidelines that follow HUD rules, as well as criteria including credit history, prior criminal convictions and past rental experience.
In New Jersey, the state provides tenant-based and project-based rental assistance grants, with special set-asides for the elderly, homeless and disabled persons. Eligibility requirements include income that is 30 per cent of area median income for the region and household size.
Prospective tenants can search for apartments that qualify for grants in each state on HUD's website: hud.gov/apps/section8/index.cfm.
Local governments, especially those of major cities, often offer grants for rental assistance. In Columbus, Ohio, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority partners with community social service agencies and non-profit groups to provide rent grants to low income families.
Eligibility guidelines follow HUD recommendations. Assisting the elderly, families with very low income and single individuals with low income through the housing choice voucher program allows the grantee to choose his own housing unit. Grantees can choose from single-family homes, town houses or apartments, and the rental assistance grant is paid directly to the landlord on behalf of the grantee by the Housing Authority. (cmhanet.com)
Other local government rental assistance programs such as that in Oakland, California, provide grants to cover the first and last month's rent or security deposit. (oaklandnet.com)