Housing assistance programs provide services, benefits and resources to low-income households to help them rise from poverty levels.
These programs work to ensure that disadvantaged families have access to affordable, safe and sanitary housing. Housing assistance, including emergency housing assistance, can be found through federal and state programs as well as community nonprofit and outreach resources. If you are in need of housing help, it is essential that you take the time to review all of the options that may be available to you, especially if your need for assistance is dire and you need help paying rent right away. Below are some government-run programs that can help alleviate housing expenses.
About Federal Housing Assistance Programs
You may qualify for benefits through a housing assistance program if you have low to very low-income. However, each program will have its own eligibility requirements and benefits. By learning more about each assistance program, you will learn how to qualify for benefits and how to apply for assistance.
Learn About the Public Housing Program
If you are in need of emergency housing assistance, the Public Housing Program provides safe, decent and affordable housing to low and very low-income households that qualify. Households that qualify can live within state-owned rental properties that have significantly reduced rent fees compared to other properties within the surrounding area.
This program is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is administered on a local level through the Public Housing Agency (PHA). To qualify for housing, your household must:
- Meet income-related requirements.
- Have at least one dependent child, senior citizen or elderly person living within the home.
- Meet personal and rental history qualifications.
You can apply for the Public Housing Program by contacting your local PHA. When submitting an application, you must provide supporting documentation. This may include proof of income for all household members. If approved for benefits, you will receive benefits immediately or be put on a waiting list until further housing becomes available.
Learn About the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)
The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, is a HUD program that is administered by PHAs located within each county or metropolitan area. Through HUD housing assistance, qualifying families are able to receive housing vouchers in order to reduce the rent of qualifying apartments, townhomes and single family homes.
While similar to the Public Housing Program, these rental properties are owned by landlords and housing agencies that have been approved for the Section 8 program. All dwellings must meet and maintain housing quality standards in order to remain eligible for Section 8 tenants.
If you are in need of housing help, you may qualify for Section 8 benefits if your household:
- Meets income-related requirements.
- Has at least one dependent child, senior citizen or elderly person living within the home.
- Meets personal and rental history qualifications.
If your family qualifies for benefits, you may receive benefits immediately or be placed on a waiting list until benefits become available. Once your family begins to receive benefits, your local PHA will pay a portion of your rental fees directly to your landlord in order to reduce the amount of rental cost that your household is responsible for.
Learn About FEMA Housing Assistance
The Individuals and Households Program (IHP) provides FEMA housing assistance to those who have experienced significant property loss after a presidentially-declared natural disaster. The IHP program provides grants towards the cost of repair or replacement of damaged residential properties. The program also helps pay for the costs of temporary housing.
In order to receive housing help after a natural disaster, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Your property loss must be located within the area that was declared a disaster zone.
- Your damaged or destroyed property must be your primary place of residence.
- Damages must have been related to the natural disaster that took place.
- You must not be able to access or live in your damaged or destroyed property due to the destruction caused by the natural disaster.
- You must not have an insurance policy that will cover the loss in full.
If you are a victim of a natural disaster and you meet the above criteria, you can apply for the IHP program by contacting FEMA.
Where to Turn When You Need Help Paying Rent
If you are in dire need of housing help in order to prevent the loss of your housing, there may be several options available to you. By exploring each of these options, you will know where to turn to when you need assistance in paying your rent quickly.
How to Apply for a Local Emergency Housing Assistance Program
If you are in need of emergency rent assistance, it is crucial that you contact your local state departments. This includes your Public Housing Agency and your Department of Health and Human Services. Both offices will likely be able to provide you with information on community outreach programs and non-profit organizations that may be able to help. Additionally, the PHA can help you to determine whether or not you qualify for the Public Housing Program or Section 8.
About Community Outreach Programs and Churches That Help Pay Rent
You may be able to obtain assistance with rent through one of many community outreach programs or charitable organizations within your local area. Depending on your community, this may include church communities, the Salvation Army and other notable resources. If you are in need of food assistance, you may also be able to receive free food by contacting your community food bank. Your Department of Health and Human Services will be able to give you a more complete list of the community resources that you may qualify for.
Need Help Paying Rent Now? Find Out About Trade Labor or Services
If you have found yourself saying, “I need help paying my rent.” Then it is important to explore every resource that may be available to you. In the meantime, you may also be able to negotiate with your landlord in order to avoid an eviction. In some cases, you may be able to get an extension on your rental payment. However, if an extension is not available, you may be able to trade labor or other services in exchange for a reduced one-time rental amount. Services that you may be able to offer include maintenance, lawn care or clerical services.
- SNAP Prescreening Eligibility
- State WIC Contacts
- National School Lunch Program
- Child Nutrition Programs
- Health Insurance Marketplace
- National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Affordable Childcare & After school programs
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
- Low Income Housing
- Find Local Food Pantry
How to Reduce Future Rental Costs
If you find yourself living from one paycheck to another each month, it is worth taking the time to review options that could reduce the cost of your monthly rental expenses. If your current housing includes an extra bedroom that you’re not actively using, consider finding a roommate. Having a roommate can substantially reduce rental costs as you and your roommate could split rental fees and the cost of utilities, potentially saving you hundreds each month.
If having a roommate is not possible, it may be worth taking the time to review other rental properties within your area. While no one enjoys moving, finding housing that could save you money each month can be incredibly beneficial and help you to avoid finding yourself in a situation where you cannot afford rental costs.
Lastly, you can reduce your overall monthly expenses by learning about government programs that you may qualify for, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Medicaid or Lifeline. Each of these federal programs provides specific benefits that can help reduce monthly expenses, such as the cost of food, health care and phone or internet services. While each program has eligibility requirements that must be met, the primary requirement for many of these programs is income-based.