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What Is Low Income Housing?

By J. Beam
Updated May 16, 2024
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Low income housing refers to residences for individuals or families with low annual household income. There are many such housing programs that are privately, state, or federally operated and funded. The purpose of is to provide places for people to live at a reasonable cost for them to afford.

The first housing crisis in America began in earnest during the Great Depression. Many people were unable to find work and therefore unable to pay for a place to live. The federal government began to develop programs to provide low income housing to individuals and families on a subsidized basis. Though many changes and modifications have been made in the policies that govern these programs, the general idea has remained intact.

Through subsidized low income housing, people in the US are provided with a place to live and charged 30% of their monthly income as rent. The federal government determines in advance what the fair market rent for the property is, and then pays the difference after the tenant’s contribution. The federally subsidized housing program is most often referred to as Section 8.

Further actions by the federal government to address the need for low income housing have taken the form of tax credits and breaks. Incentives are given to developers who seek to create housing units and rental properties for the purpose of leasing to low income families through tax credits and tax breaks. Private landlords can then work with the federal government to develop a tenant base through different programs. There are also non-profit organizations that help provide housing to those with the most need.

Most low income housing programs have guidelines that participants must meet. Typically called obligations, these guidelines include verifying annual income and reporting changes in income and dependent numbers. There is currently no time limit to participation in these programs as long as the tenants continually meet the qualifying guidelines.

The majority of programs meet the basic needs for individuals and families that might not otherwise be able to meet them, but sadly, the federal government must also spend a great deal of money and time investigating fraudulent participation in these programs. The best place to find more information about government subsidized housing and privately developed low income housing is by contacting the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). There are no pet limitations attached to low-income housing but leasing parameters might differ development by development. If you have a pet that is an emotional support animal, you should come prepared with an ESA letter along with your application.

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Discussion Comments

By Moldova — On Jul 16, 2010

Cafe41-I did not know that. I do want to add that the landlord does not have to accept the Section 8 tenet. It is really up to them.

Many do because it is a reliable income stream and they don’t have to worry about not being paid on time, since the government is picking up most of the tab.

By cafe41 — On Jul 16, 2010

Great article- I want to add that Section has certain rules about paying rental subsidies.

For example, if an person obtains a Section 8 voucher and wants to rent an apartment that according to HUD, (the Housing and Urban Development agency in charge of the program,) has a fair market rental of $800 per month, but the landlord want to charge the potential tenet $1,000 per month, the tenet will have to pay the difference of $200 as well as the 30% of their income for the rent.

HUD allows the tenet to choose the more expensive apartment and still receives subsidies for it, but the tenet will have higher out of pocket costs.

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