You may qualify for housing assistance through local or government programs when facing a financial or housing crisis. While each program has its own eligibility requirements, you must generally be considered low-income to receive monetary assistance, unless you are recovering from a presidentially-declared natural disaster. Being aware of the housing resources that may be available to you can help you overcome hardship, avoid homelessness and rise from poverty levels.
If you require emergency housing assistance, you must review local resources in addition to applying for federal programs. Government assistant programs can provide crucial support to low-income families, but are notorious for long waiting lists due to a lack of funding, especially in densely populated areas. Therefore, it is essential that you apply for assistance with each resource that may be available to you, especially when faced with an emergency that could leave you and your family without housing.
1. How to Get Help from Local Emergency Housing Assistance Programs
You can learn more about emergency housing assistance opportunities in your community by contacting your local:
These agencies can provide you with information about housing resources within your local community, including local organizations that may be able to provide monetary assistance, food assistance, shelter assistance and more.
Depending on the community you live within, you may be able to find emergency assistance through nonprofit organizations, charitable organizations and church communities. You can contact these community resources directly or receive a referral from one of your local agencies.
Most community outreach programs are income-based. Therefore, you will need to be considered low-income to qualify. Additionally, you may be required to meet other eligibility qualifications, such as residency, citizenship or family composition requirements.
2. How to Apply for Government Housing Assistance
There are two housing assistance programs that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides to low-income families and households. These programs provide crucial rental assistance to needy families to ensure that low-income households have access to decent, sanitary and safe housing opportunities.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly known as Section 8, provides housing assistance to low-income families, senior citizens and disabled persons. Section 8 beneficiaries receive support with rental costs that are paid directly to landlords to reduce the amount of rent that a participating household must pay each month. Section 8 dwellings can be approved single-family homes, townhomes and apartments.
The Public Housing Program offers qualifying low-income families, disabled persons and senior citizens the opportunity to rent state-owned dwellings at a reduced rental price. Therefore, the Public Housing Program ensures that low-income households are afforded decent, safe and sanitary housing opportunities, regardless of income level. Similarly to the Section 8 program, Public Housing dwellings include apartments, townhomes and single-family homes.
You can apply for these government housing assistance programs by contacting your local Public Housing Agency. To qualify, your household must meet eligibility requirements related to:
- Family or household composition.
- United States citizenship or immigration status.
- Rental history and other local factors.
To obtain HUD housing assistance from the Housing Choice Voucher Program, your household’s income may not exceed 50 percent of the median income for the metropolitan area or county that you are applying in. For the Public Housing Program, your household income may not exceed 80 percent of the median income.
Once you apply with a PHA for assistance, your eligibility will be determined based upon the information and documentation that you provide the agency. If approved for benefits for either HUD program, you will either receive assistance immediately or be placed upon a waiting list until housing or funds become available.
3. How to Find Affordable Rental Housing with Help from HUD Housing Assistance Counselors
When reviewing housing assistance programs, it is crucial to learn more about local rental opportunities within your area that may be more affordable than your current housing. While you can search for affordable housing opportunities on your own, HUD-approved housing counselors can assist you in locating affordable housing opportunities within your area.
Most HUD-approved housing counselors are part of nonprofit organizations and thus do not charge a fee for services. You can locate an approved counselor in your area online or call (800)-569-4287 for assistance.
If you are a senior citizen, you can also take advantage of Eldercare Locator, a free service that designed to connect you with local programs and resources allotted to senior citizens within your area.
4. How to Apply for FEMA Housing Assistance to Recover from a Declared Disaster
If you require emergency housing assistance after a natural disaster, you may be eligible to receive financial aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Individuals and Households Program (IHP) provides financial assistance to eligible recipients who have experienced losses within an area that was declared a natural disaster zone by the president of the United States.
To qualify for government housing assistance, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- You are a citizen of the United States or you have a qualifying, lawful non-citizen status.
- You have experienced losses to your primary place of residence due to the natural disaster.
- Due to damages caused by the disaster, you are unable to live in or access your home.
- You do not have adequate homeowner’s insurance.
Depending on your circumstances and the damage done to your home, IHP may be able to provide you benefits to assist with:
- Temporary housing.
- Financial reimbursement for short-term lodging expenses.
- Financial assistance towards the cost of home repair or replacement.
In some cases, the Individuals and Households program may be able to provide help with other expenses, such as disaster-caused medical, childcare, clean-up expenses.
You can apply for FEMA housing assistance online or by contacting the FEMA helpline at (800) 621-3362. When contacting the FEMA helpline, you may be provided with additional referrals to local resources within your community while your application is processed.