Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be impoverished to qualify for most of these housing programs. People with moderate and especially limited fixed incomes can receive housing assistance through these programs. Most of the programs discussed below are available nationwide, but of course they are more prevalent in larger metropolitan areas.
This is a federal government program funded through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The programs are administered through state and local agencies, both public and private. The housing that is provided through this program are both privately owned and government owned (public housing). Applications and approval are done through the local agencies.
The qualifying rules vary from location to location. Usually, an applicant has to be at least 62 years old (some programs will allow a younger spouse) and their income can be no more than 50 – 60% of the local median income. Preference is given to those currently living in substandard or inappropriate housing or their current housing expense exceeds 50% of their income. Approved applicants will receive assistance to cap their housing expense at 30% of their income. Also, participating properties must meet government regulations to assure that they are safe and appropriate for seniors.
This not so well-known program is a part of the Medicare program. It is designed to keep seniors who need some living assistance and nursing assistance to stay in their current homes. This not only saves the government money, but it also saves the patient the extra expense of relocating to and living in a assisted facility. The basic qualification is that the senior must be enrolled in Medicare and be eligible for nursing home care. The main feature of PACE is the use of a local “adult day care” facility. The PACE approved senior spends the daytime at this facility and the evenings and weekends at their own home. Full professional services are provided at the daycare location and the program helps pay for care providers and needed services at the home. Sometimes financial assistance is available to assist with utility and other related housing expenses. PACE is available mostly in larger metro areas on the east coast and in California.
The LIHTC program is run by the Internal Revenue Service. It is a tax incentive program that encourages the availability of affordable and low cost housing for seniors. The participating properties are owned and managed by both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Qualifying rules vary depending on location, but usually limit the applicant’s income to 60% of the local median income and with a minimum age of 55 years old. A special feature of this program is that the applicant is allowed to rent out their current home, as long as their income doesn’t exceed the allowed maximum. LIHTC housing usually are one-bedroom or two-bedroom unfurnished apartments. The apartments are built specifically for seniors, and many properties include amenities and community events appropriate for seniors.
Section 8 housing is the general low-income housing program run by HUD. It is administered by local Public Housing Assistance agencies. This program pays private landlords most of the rent on the apartment. Usually, the most an approved applicant will have to pay is up to 30% of their income. Seniors might be interested in Section 8, because there are more of these properties available than for the senior specific Section 202 program. However, most locations have long waiting lists for Section 8 housing.
If a senior knows they will need long-term assisted care in an assisted facility, qualifying for Medicaid can greatly reduce the expense of living in such a facility. Medicaid qualifying rules vary from state to state, but it is usually an involved and difficult application process no matter what the location is. It usually makes financial sense to obtain Medicaid for help with long term care living, even if you have to pay for professional assistance with the application process.
Many larger metro areas have numerous organizations and agencies that assist in obtaining affordable and low cost housing, both in general and specifically for seniors. Some of these organizations are run by local religious groups, community centers and municipalities. It is always smart to turn to these resources first for information and guidance as well as actual housing solutions.