How to Qualify for Low Income Senior Housing

Lots of people hit retirement just to realize they aren’t as prepared as they thought. Low income senior housing may be a good solution.

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Lots of people hit retirement just to realize they aren’t as prepared as they thought. Low income senior housing may be a good solution.

If you are interested in low income housing for seniors, then you need to be aware of the income limits. It is important to know any federal and state level programs that could help you afford housing during retirement.

When it comes to housing, a low-income senior is defined as someone over 60 whose income is below 80% of their counties’ average. The federal programs are Low Income Housing Tax Credit, Housing Choice Voucher, and Section 202 of the Supportive Housing Program.

This article covers the federal programs and necessary qualifications to qualify for low-income senior housing. In addition, here is a spreadsheet that provides the information for you to contact your state’s HUD office for senior low-income housing.

Table of Contents

What is Low Income Senior Housing?

Low-income senior housing refers to communities, typically apartments, that offer affordable rent or mortgages to low-income senior citizens. This can help retirees afford necessities such as sufficient food and money for utility bills.

In addition, it will generally include assisted living for those senior citizens that have chronic health problems, disabilities, or otherwise limited mobility. Assisted living facilities offer medical aid and assistance

The National Council of Aging defines low-income seniors as citizens age 60 and over that have less than $30,000 annual income. Using this guideline, over 40 percent of those 60 and older qualify as low-income seniors. However, for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, the qualifications are a little different. HUD determines income levels for every county separately. The maximum allowable income for senior housing depends on the average income for the county.

HUD generally categorized seniors based on their income levels. There are two qualifying levels for senior low-income housing: low income and very low income. Low income is defined as less than 80% of the average income for the county. Very low income is defined as less than 50% of the average income for the county.

When applying for low-income senior housing, you will always be required to show proof of your income. You will also have to have a list of family members you plan on residing with and your current and recent rental history.

Income limits are determined by the number of people in your household and your gross yearly income. Gross yearly income is equal to your fixed income plus any income from your assets. Fixed income includes any pensions and retirement benefits, including Social Security, you have. It also includes annuities, monetary gifts, unemployment, wages, benefits, bonuses, and commission. Income from your assets includes savings plans, certificated deposits, checking accounts, savings accounts, cash, life insurance, stocks, bonds, revocable trusts, safety deposit boxes, and real estate equity.

Before you can obtain a new lease, you will have to recertify your income and family size. Your local housing authority should have a table or chart that provides the average income for your county. A household with more family members typically has higher income caps for qualification.

It is also important to note that senior housing may exclude families that have members that are still under the age of 62 without violating the Fair Housing Act discriminatory provisions. Also, for some programs you may be required to attend an interview with HUD employees. If you seem to pose a risk of disruptive behavior or have a negative history at previous residences then they may deny you low-income senior housing.

The senior housing assistance programs that are controlled by HUD are only for U.S. citizens unless you are a non-citizen that has eligible immigration status. These qualifications have to be met by every member of the household and if a single member of the family unit does not have citizenship or immigration status that is valid then the assistance payments will be adjusted to exclude the ineligible member from any calculations.

Additionally, there are some facilities that are meant to be used for senior housing that allow residents of any age that are disabled and over the age of 18. The Department of Housing and Urban Development defines an eligible disability as permanent impairment that affects the person’s emotional, mental, or physical well-being.

Generally, senior housing properties are not assisted living or continuing care requirement communities. Therefore, the properties are not created to provide any supportive or medical care and there is no health or disability requirement needed to apply. Required services may be delivered to the low-income senior housing units or communities, but it is typically not the purpose or goal of the property. Some properties do have a service coordinator or a person in the position of helping tenants locate, identify, and access needed services and resources. They are typically able to help the residents with their unique needs and coordinate with community organizations to bring additional resources and services to the property. If this is something you may be interested in, talk to your local HUD office or a property you are interested in.

It is important to note that Section 2020 Supportive Housing, however, does offer assistance with necessities. Be sure to look at each program to find which one is the right one for you. It may also be a good idea to contact your local HUD office for more information.

Low Income Senior Housing Programs

There are three federal programs for low-income senior housing. There are the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, the Housing Choice Voucher program, and Section 202 of the Supportive Housing Program. The qualifications for each program are unique. In addition, there is also Public Housing and Private Housing to be aware of.

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program, or LIHTC, is a program that involves developers and investors who receive tax credits for developing, building, buying, and rehabbing acceptable rental houses designed to be used for low-income senior citizens. These tax credits are given if part of the whole apartment is reserved for fixed-income or low-income renters. Since the LIHTC is a tax credit based program, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) administers and regulates it.

LIHTC has differing qualifications requirements that depend on the age and income of the applicant. Each affordable senior living community will have unique and specific eligibility and qualification requirements. In most situations, LIHTC communities will dictate that the senior citizen has a minimum age in the range of 55 and over and 62 and over. LIHTC residents have to have limited or fixed incomes that total around 60 percent of the average income for the area or county. However, in some areas this average income can be as high as 80 percent or as low as 30 percent.

Some citizens will even qualify for LIHTC even if they have assets or own a home. However, you can only use the home as an investment and cannot reside in it if you are accepted into the LIHTC program.

Typically, LIHTC communities will have one and two bedroom apartments. They are usually unfurnished and built specifically for seniors. Therefore, a lot of LIHTC communities will also include common areas and events for the entire community. Many also have recreational areas designed with seniors in mind.

Section 202 Supportive Housing

Section 202 is a great option for frail or limited mobility seniors that require help for cleaning, cooking, transportation, and possibly other necessities. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, provides the finances needed for this program.

HUD provides plans and finances to non-profit organizations, private organizations, and properties so that they can afford to offer affordable homes to senior citizens. In addition, they will also provide amenities. This is all done through rent subsidies.

Included in the Section 202 program are housekeeping services, meals delivered to the home, referral services, counseling, transportation, and medication. Usually the housing is in the form of a single bedroom apartment that has a bathroom and a kitchen. The apartments will also include assistance features like ramps and assistance grab bars.

To qualify for Section 202, you have to be at least 62 years old and have to have very low income for your household. This is usually defined as 50 percent of the area’s average income. The average income is around 10 thousand dollars a year. They also consider applicants who reside in substandard housing or those who have been displaced involuntarily. In addition, they consider people if you are paying 50 percent or more of your current income for rent.

Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)

This program, like Section 202, is a program run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. It is managed and facilitated at the state level. This program is not only for seniors and accommodates low-income families and those with disabilities.

The housing for the Housing Choice Voucher Program is privately owned, but those in need will be provided with housing vouchers that assist with rent and utilities. Generally, someone who is accepted into the program will pay 30 percent of the monthly adjusted gross income and the voucher will pay all, or most, of the difference. Additionally, these vouchers can be used to purchase a home.

Housing units have to be inspected to ensure that they meet the standards required by public housing agencies. Then, the maximum amount of housing assistance available to the applicant will be calculated. Therefore, you can choose any housing unit that satisfies the requirements of the Section 8 program and do not have to reside in any specific project or area.

To qualify, you will have to pass a background screening that looks at your income. It will also check into your family compositions and assets. These assets may be included in the total of your annual income in part or full. The public housing agency will also perform an additional screening to verify your eligibility. They will also look at your assets, income, and family composition. However, they will also look at your employer and bank information.

The income limit for HUD and Section 8 is 50 percent or less of the average income in the area. Therefore, it varies from location to location. If you are accepted into the program, you may be offered immediate assistance, but most applicants are placed onto a waiting list.

Public Housing

Public housing is made up of apartment complexes and high-rises. These are overseen and regulated by public agencies at either the county or city level. They are subsidized units that are designed specifically for low-income seniors and families. To qualify, you must be able to offer 30 percent of your income to rent and utilities.

Private Housing

The Department of Housing and Urban Development may help low-income seniors with obtaining privately owned apartments that offer subsidized rent. For private housing, you apply with the apartment’s management directly. However, you will still have to meet the required eligibility. Also, you may have to be included on a wait list. You are less likely, however, to be placed on a waiting list if you currently reside in substandard housing.

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