How to

How to Apply for Low Income Housing?

Are you looking for affordable housing and wonder what is the process for applying for it? Well, you are at the right place.

In a world of excessive cost of living, the demand for a decent and affordable living has increased like never before. Government is putting a lot of effort to help subsidize affordable living for the people who are in the category of low income. There is an extensive list of processes facilitated by the government to provide affordable living. This article elaborates the process of how to apply for low income housing where you will come to know the availability of the housing and requirements for the application.

You just need the relevant information to put before you apply for the housing and see your name in the waiting list. Your local public housing authority will also be there to help you in every problem related to finding you a low income housing.

Low income housing

Low income housing or also called affordable housing is the one for which a household can pay for and still have left money to afford for other necessities such as food, healthcare and transportation. Affordability hence depends on the income of the individual household. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines housing as available that spends 30% of their income on housing and not more than that.

The issue of providing enough low income housing is getting stressful and there are more policies coming from the government to address the issue. The housing market is unregulated and unsubsidized which makes the renters to bear the brunt because they don’t have the money to spend on the housing. So the government is deciding on policies to give relief to the people of low income to afford a respectable living. The focus is on providing affordable housing and increasing the supply of it.

The federal, state and local governments therefore are putting efforts to make affordable housing more convenient for the citizens of the country by subsidizing the housing and providing rental assistance for lower income households. In that regard, the government provides public housing which is priced less than market rates for the housing which allows people to live in a decent location and not go away from the cities to look for lower rents.

These federally funded rental assistance programs require the tenants to pay 30% of the income for the rents. Public housing is generally based on one or more concentrated blocks of high-rise or low-rise apartment buildings that include all the necessities of a house. These housing complexes are operated and authorized by the state and local authorities who are funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The recent reports suggest that around 1 million housing units are operated under the auspices of state and local authorities.

With various factors changing over time, the approach continued to change in order to provide housing for the low-income people. In those efforts since the 1970s, the government launched project based Section 8 program, Section 8 certificates and the housing Choice voucher program whose aim was to make affordable housing for low income people easier. In the 1990s, the government launched another program through HUD’s Hope VI program that aimed at revitalizing the public housing projects by mixed income developments.

In 2012, with the help of HUD, the Congress initiated Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program under which public housing properties were to be redeveloped in conjunction with private developers and investors.

What is zoning?

Zoning is the term used for the regulations that govern the use of urban and suburban areas that seek to segregate one portion of the area from the area at a place which is to be constructed.

So under the zoning of the area, the patch of land is reserved for housing, office buildings, light industry and shopping centers etc. this zoning is called Euclidean zoning which regulates the division of the land in different portions for different usage. Then there is form based zoning which regulates the shapes of the buildings that are being constructed over that particular patch of the land, rather than the activities happening inside them.


This zoning of the area restricts more houses to be built given that a considerable patch of the land is reserved for other buildings in the area.

Types of affordable rental housing

The department of Housing and Urban Development supports three types of affordable rental housing for the people of low income, elderly and handicapped population of the country.

  1. Privately owned, subsidized housing is the housing where the government pays to the landlords in exchange that they reduce their rents for the mentioned categories of the people. You can search for an apartment and apply in the area you want directly from the rental management office.
  2. Public housing provides affordable housing to the people who are elderly, hadicapped or with low income with low income housing. You can apply for your housing from any public housing agency near your area.
  3. Housing choice voucher program: In this program, you find a rental property yourself in the area you want to reside, you can use the voucher from the government to pay for all or part of the rent. In this case too, you can apply through a public housing agency.

If you face any hurdles in application or finding the right program for you, or you have trouble contacting your public housing agency, you can contact your local HUD field office. They will be there for your help and resolve any queries.

How to apply for low income housing?

There are different types of housing available for elderly persons, low-income families and for handicapped. People falling in any of these categories can seek help from the United States Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which gives to states and property owners who in turn provide low-income housing for these people. HUD however does not own this property.

The head or co-head of a household cannot be changed after a house is assigned to a family. The family can add the members of the family in the application but assigning a head and co-head is one time thing. Also, the assigned house is not “passed on” to any other family member later on. Because public housing is not an inheritance right of any person, it is not passed to any family member once the head wants to exit the program or he/she is not alive anymore.

If you are from any of the above mentioned category, you can apply for low income housing by following the below steps:

Find out if you are eligible?

State-aided public housing caters the people with low income, elederly and handicapped with the help of Local Housing Authorities in the states. You have to look into one of these local housing authorities near your area and see if they have any specifications about the eligibility criteria.

Normally, those low income households who earn no more than 80% of the area median income are eligible and can apply for the low income housing.

Other than that if you or any member of your family are 60 years old or someone is handicapped, you are qualified for applying for the low income housing.


You have to check which housing authority is near to your area and see their procedure for applying. But usually you can apply online and on paper as well.

For applying online you can use the app of the particular housing authority if there is any, or you can visit their website. If you are applying online and you have already applied on the paper, you can search for your application from the website of the housing authority. But if you are doing it for the first time, you need to create a new account.

With that account you will be able to make any changes at any time in your application and also the housing authority will be in ease to contact you in case they require any information.

While applying online, make sure that your fill all the boxes where information is required especially see that asterisked (*) sections are not left unanswered, otherwise your application won’t proceed.

If you are applying on paper, download the application form and enter all the required data. Double check all the entries you have put your information in case you have left any box unanswered. After that, sign the Applicant Certification and the Fair Information Practices Act Statement for Rights.

Beside your personal information some local housing authorities require additional information about you and your family for instance:

  • All the adult members of the family must pass the criminal background check
  • The family does not have any consumer debt obligations which are exceeding 60% of their monthly income.
  • At least one member of the family holds legal status.

At the end of the application, you would be required to select housing programs at each local housing authority where you want to live. After completing your application, mail or hand deliver it to the LHA near to your area.

Your local housing authority enters your application into their database from where it is easier for you to access your application online and make intended changes at any time using your Application ID number.

Waiting list

Once your application is received to the Local Housing Authority, they proceed with it and do not require any documentation at that time. Most of the housing authorities work on city-wide waiting list based on time and date of the applications and family eligibility criteria.

They issue the list of applicants who applied after verifying their information and the availability of the vacancies to be filled. They look for the appropriate bedroom size and place required by the applicants and offer three sites to applicants, if the top applicants have refused all three of them then their name is removed from that waiting list and placed into another one if they find suitable housing for the applicants.

Preference is usually given to local families whose head or co-head is:

  • Working for 20 hours a week on the government’s minimum wage criteria.
  • Attending any officially recognized institution such as trade school, collage, vocational school full time and the course study will lead him/her to employment.
  • Attending and working in a high learning institution whose combined time is at least 20 hours a week.
  • Families whose head or co-head is 60 years old or any member is handicapped.

Note that apartment sizes are assigned based on the family size alone not on the basis of family composition. Below is the table that shows the unit size in regards to the number of members in a family.

Number of Bedrooms Number of Persons Minimum Number of Persons Maximum
 0  1  1
 1  1  2
 2  2  4
 3  4  6
 4  6  8
 5  8  12

Income limits

The income limits are set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. This income is considered the one which is after all the deductions. Below is the table of income limits set by the department regarding the number of family members.


Number of persons in a household Extremely Low Income (30% of Median) Extremely Low Income (30% of Median) Extremely Low Income (30% of Median)
1 $23,700.00 $39,450.00 $63,100.00
2 $27,050.00 $45,050.00 $72,100.00
3 $30,450.00 $50,700.00 $81,100.00
4 $33,800.00 $56,300.00 $90,100.00
5 $36,550.00 $60,850.00 $ 97,350.00
6 $39,250.00 $65,350.00 $104,550.00
7 $41,950.00 $69,850.00 $111,750.00
8 $44,650.00 $74,350.00 $118,950.00
9 $48,600.00 $78,850.00 $126,150.00
10 $53,080.00 $83,350.00 $133,350.00
11 $57,560.00 $87,850.00 $140,600.00
12 $62,040.00 $92,350.00 $147,800.00
13 $66,520.00 $96,850.00 $155,000.00

Common questions of applicants

While applying for the low income housing, applicants have a bunch of questions to ask. There is some information about the questions which may arise in your mind too when you apply for it.

  • What are the income limits for low income housing?

To be eligible for the low income housing, the total income of the household should be at or around 80% of the area median income. The income limits keep on changing so you need to check on the recent one from the website of your local housing authority.

  • What if I want to apply through an app of any LHA, but I have to use public computers?

The applications of certain LHAs can be accessed from phones and computers but if you have to use a public computer such as one in the library, you can access your application but just make sure that you don’t save your login information in the computers and log off completely when you are done. Some applications are automatically logged off if they remain inactive for more than 20 minutes.

  • How do I request a translator while using the app?

Many of the local housing authority’s apps are available in multiple languages for example English, Chinese, Haitian, Russian, Spanish, Portugees, Vietnamese and Khmer etc. If you want a translator, you can contact the local housing authority, they will help you by providing one.

  • I have submitted my application a long time ago, will there be the same timestamp that was on my original application?

Yes, you will find the same information that you put in first place. The timestamp will also be the same but in order to keep your application active, you need to contact your local housing authority once in two years. Otherwise your application will be inactive and your name will be removed from the waiting list.

  • I submitted my application for the low income housing, can I find it on the website?

Yes, you can find your application that you have submitted on paper to the Local Housing Authority. They have updated the information on their website that can easily be accessible once you create an account on the app.

  • I started an application online but didn’t finish it. How can I compete now?

If you have applied once and left your application unfinished, you can log in from the application anytime to finish your application and make necessary changes. You need to complete Applicant’s Certificate and Fair Information Practices Act- and Statements Rights. Once you complete these important certificates, you need to submit them and then you are done.

  • I mailed an application to the Local Housing Authority, how much time will it take to see it online?

It is different with each housing authority to process the application to their online system. But every application that is received via paper is given a timestamp and will be available on the online database at that time. To ensure that it is processed in the right way, make sure that you provide every information asked in the paper.

  • Who should I ask for help if I face any trouble completing the application?

Your Local Housing Authority is always there for your help, you can check if they provide any customer care service, you can reach them anytime of need.

  • How can I add or remove myself from the waiting list?

Every local housing Authority issues a waiting list of the applicants for each housing program. You can find the list at the end of the application and if you want to see a description of each housing program, you can visit the web page of your respective local housing authority.

Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)

When COVID-19 hit the world generally and particularly in the United States, many factions of the society faced severe repercussions. Among them was the low income people who were already facing hardships regarding their living. Government in that regard launched a relief program specially for the renters who are living on low income. Emergency Rental Assistance Program is issued by the government with the agenda of ‘keeping families in their homes’. This program is launched as a relief for the millions of Americans who faced deep rental debt and fear evictions and loss of basic housing security in covid situation.


The emergency program was established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021, to help people with low income who are facing the threat of being homeless. The program helps renters to pay rent, past due rent balances, utility and home energy costs and other areas where renters can’t afford their living.

Rent expenses include rent arrears, rent, rental cost for retailers and trailer lots may include long term housing hotels, boarding homes and motels. Utility however covers gas, water, electricity, trash removal and energy cost etc.

How is eligible for the ERAP?

People who are suffering from the following situations may apply for ERAP.

  • One or more people in the family has qualified for unemployment, decreased income, increased household cost or faced other financial hardship that is directly affected by COVID restrictions imposed by the government.
  • If one or more people in the household show the risk of being homeless or housing instability’
  • The household which has income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income.

How to apply for ERAP?

You can submit your application on http://www.compass/state/  form any county but if your county is not in the participation of Compass application then you can apply directly with your county or you can download and print the application from your county ERAP office and apply there.

At the time of application, you need to prepare the following information to enter into the application:

  • Income information of every member of the household who is above 18 years old.
  • Your landlord’s name and contact information
  • Your lease or document that shows the amount of rent you pay
  • Personal information of the head of the house including driving license, passport, state issued ID card
  • Utility expenses such as water, electric, oil, and natural gas etc
  • Utility provider information

You should have following documents available with you at the time of application

  • Unemployment determination letter or proof that shows decrease in household income due to COVID-19 pandemic
  • Proof of income of all members of the household above the age of 18
  • Documents of unearned income such as unemployment benefits, retirement benefits, child security benefits and spouse/child support
  • Documents showing utility and rental arrears dues
  • Paystubs, W-2s, other wage statements, direct deposit records, tax filing, or attestation form an employer
  • Personal identification such as driving license, state issued ID card and passport
  • Documents showing other housing related expenses affected by the COVIS-19 situation.


The low income population of the society faces so many hardships related to finding decent and affordable housing. The government in that regard offers multiple programs to help these people find areas where they can live in their limited budget and can find employment opportunities.

The process for finding affordable housing is made easy and customer friendly through both online and physical means which can be accessed with the ease of the people. The affordable housing is available for people with low income, elderly and handicapped. This program can be a great help for the people who are already looking for a decent living. Government has also launched an Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help those who are harshly hit by COVID-19 pandemic. Programs like these can be proven a great relief for the financially struggling people

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