Learn About Affordable Housing Options

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In today’s challenging housing climate, cheap apartments are highly sought after and often in short supply.

This may be doubly true in economic growth areas where an influx of workers seeking to take advantage of generous employment options. Property owners facing economic stressors of their own are also turning to renting as a way to afford secondary properties or to reduce their own housing costs. These private rentals can comprise a large portion of the total market in some places.

However, finding affordable apartments on a low or moderate income can take a little more work and flexibility than it might with more funds available, but it is entirely possible. Government programs encouraging and facilitating low-cost housing are active in every community. Understanding your options, their benefits and drawbacks and your personal needs and priorities is the first step to making good choices and finding appropriate, affordable homes no matter where you live.

Learn About HUD Housing

HUD housing programs are one of the first places low-income families often turn for help in finding affordable living options. While HUD runs a number of programs, including public housing units, its most popular offering is Section 8 apartments vouchers. These vouchers pay a portion of families’ rent each month, enabling even very low-income households to afford safe and sanitary housing appropriate to their needs.

Program enrollees dedicate 30 percent of their total household income in housing in the form of monthly rental payments. HUD partners with local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) to directly pay landlords the difference between participants’ total financial commitment and the market cost of the property. For example, if 30 percent of a household income was $500 per month and market-rate rent on the approved property beneficiaries occupy is $900, then HUD would give your landlord a Section 8 rentals voucher each month for $400.

Understandably, demand for Section 8 assistance is often high. As a result, many eligible families find themselves on long waitlists for assistance. Waitlists primarily operate on a first-come-first-served basis, but preference may be given to vulnerable or high-risk populations such as the elderly or individuals with disabilities. This can leave some families waiting as long as several years for program assistance.

Worse, some low-income families may not qualify for program assistance at all. Vouchers are only awarded to households:

  • With sufficiently low total income.
  • That are eligible by virtue of disability status.
  • With qualifying citizenship or immigration status.
  • Not compromised of full-time students.
  • Whose members pass criminal background checks.
  • Whose members have not been disqualified or barred from receiving public support for any reason.
  • Willing and able to complete the application process, including documentation of identity, citizenship or immigration status and income.

Overall, HUD housing programs such as Section 8 are among the most desirable solutions for low-income households and help vast numbers of Americans secure safe and stable housing every year. But for some households, those programs are out of reach and other solutions must be found.

Learn About Low-Income Apartments: No Waiting List

Households may be left to find affordable houses for rent on their own if they do not qualify for government assistance or no assistance is immediately available to them. Fortunately, families in this disadvantaged position are not without options and resources. They can:

  • Move to another area. Section 8 demand and availability is not universal. Families with flexibility in their living arrangements may find that they can begin receiving a housing voucher immediately if they move to a lower-demand area. Local PHAs can assist families in identifying other service regions with available vouchers and immediate housing availability.
  • Explore non-traditional private rentals. Residents can avoid the paperwork and eligibility requirements associated with government apartments and voucher programs by finding and selecting an inexpensive apartment from the private rental market. These apartments may come in several varieties, including:
    • Small, privately owned apartment complexes.
    • Divided or converted formerly single-family homes.
    • “In-law” apartments and other independent housing units located in the basements, garages, attics or yards of private properties.
    • Apartments being sub-let by the existing tenants while they travel for work or business.
    • Single rooms or suites for rent within a larger residence.

Private rentals can often be inexpensive if you select units with unusual quirks, lacking popular amenities or offered by homeowners looking for flexibility in their tenants.

  • Look into apartment sharing. One of the best ways to find low income apartments with no waiting list is to move in with someone already leasing an apartment who is looking for a roommate. By splitting the costs of a space with one or more other people, families can significantly reduce their expenses while gaining access to the amenities and conveniences associated with a much higher price point.
  • Consider properties that need work. Sometimes affectionately called “fixer-uppers,” these properties may have outdated fixtures or décor or the minor inconveniences that come with holder properties such as leaky windows and squeaky doors. If family members are handy and enjoy always having a “project,” then households can easily find cheap houses in this category to rent.

No matter what kind of property you feel is best for your needs, you can rely on a few standard methods to find inexpensive housing in your area. These include the following:

  • Ask your PHA for help. Even if you do not enroll in government assistance programs, your PHA will provide you with their most current list of affordable properties upon request.
  • Ask other local authorities. If you have disabilities, then consider contacting your local disability advocacy group since it is likely that they maintain lists of contacts and housing options and supports for which you qualify. Similarly, if you are elderly, then contact your local Senior Services agencies or authorities. Most interest groups or public service agencies can help connect you to housing resources appropriate to their target population’s needs.
  • Regularly check local real estate clearinghouse sites and classified websites or listings. Rentals are commonly listed on these sites. Better, these sites typically offer interactive search functions and the ability to save searches, saving you time and energy.
  • Look for locally printed publications. Many regions and municipalities offer free print publications in supermarkets and other public venues with real estate and rental listings for your convenience.

Safety Tips When Looking for Affordable Housing

As you are looking at list after list of low-income apartments for rent, you must keep certain safety precautions in mind. Fraudulent listings are prevalent on the internet because many apartment sites do not require users to verify their listings. To avoid a housing scam and losing money, read these tips:

  • Does it seem like the best deal on the market? If so, then take a closer look. If you are looking for affordable apartments for rent and come across a listing with a rental price that is far lower than any other price on the site, then consider it a red flag. Many false postings will display a very low, all-inclusive price in order to entice users to click on the listings and contact the original posters. They may also use phrases such as “this apartment won’t last!” or “call now before it’s gone!”
  • Never send money online to a user you do not know. Sometimes, scammers will send you a video walk-through of a low-income apartment listing and then request a deposit in order to hold the apartment and take it off the market. Once you send the deposit, the scammer will give you a move-in date but is nowhere to be found when you arrive with your boxes and bags.
  • Try not to visit apartment listings alone. If you must visit an apartment alone, then make sure you verify the person who is showing the apartment. Ask for their full name beforehand and occupation. If he or she is a realtor, then ask about his or her agency.