A disability can leave you unable to work, making it hard for you to pay bills and putting you at risk of losing your home. Some people with disabilities look to Social Security for housing assistance, but other government programs are more helpful.
Fortunately, housing assistance is available for low-income people with disabilities through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other government agencies. There are also government and nonprofit programs that can help with other expenses like utilities, food, and medical insurance.
States, counties, and local governments receive HUD funding to pay for programs that can help Social Security disability recipients. Applicants need to meet eligibility requirements.
Two of these programs are public housing and housing vouchers.
Public housing is a HUD-run program that provides decent and safe rental housing at subsidized rates for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. HUD gives money to local public housing agencies (PHAs) to manage and operate these housing programs. The public housing agency makes the final decision about who qualifies and who is accepted.
HUD sets income limits for the program.
The PHA can also take into account:
HUD-funded housing vouchers are an important source of housing assistance for families with a disabled family member. The programs are designed to serve people with extremely low incomes that are at or below the poverty line.
City and state public housing agencies decide who's eligible for a voucher. In general, a family income may not be higher than 50% of the median income for the metropolitan area or county they live in. The agencies also determine the amount of the housing assistance voucher.
The agencies take into account other factors such as:
After being approved for a voucher, tenants will need to put 30% of their monthly adjusted gross household income toward rent and utilities. That percentage can go up to 40% if the rent is higher than the program limits.
Previously known as Section 8, the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program is HUD's main housing assistance program. It's designed to help "very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market." HCV is run by more than 2,100 state and local housing agencies. About 2.2 million low-income households across the country receive housing choice vouchers.
Several types of housing vouchers are awarded based on who's eligible and administrative details.
Tenant-based vouchers stay with the person or family who receives it, not the landlord or unit owner. To receive tenant-based assistance, the tenant's unit must first be approved by the PHA. The PHA then creates a contract with the unit's owner to make subsidized payments directly to the unit's landlord. If the family moves out of the leased unit, the contract with the unit owner is terminated and the voucher stays with the family, as long as the family follows the program's requirements.
Project-based vouchers (PBVs) are tied to specific units in specific buildings or projects. The landlord contracts with the state or local PHA to rent to families and individuals with low incomes and disabilities. Project-based vouchers may be more beneficial to disabled and elderly tenants because service providers can work more efficiently with a higher percentage of residents in a building with similar needs.
A mainstream voucher is specifically for families with a disabled family member who is 18 to 61 years of age and in need of housing assistance. HUD estimates that more than 66,000 people or households in the United States receive mainstream vouchers.
Non-elderly disabled (NED) vouchers are similar to mainstream vouchers, but they're specifically for families in which the head or co-head of the household is disabled. HUD estimates that nearly 55,000 people or households in the United States have NED vouchers.
The HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program combines HUD's HCV rental assistance with case management and clinical services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). HUD-VASH vouchers are specifically for military veterans and their families who are homeless or are at risk of losing their homes.
Unfortunately, the demand for housing assistance is much greater than the funding available. It can take years for people to receive assistance. Many people will either become homeless or be in danger of becoming homeless while they wait for help.
HUD's Continuum of Care (CoC) program, formerly known as Shelter+ Care, helps provide long-term housing and support services to people with certain disabilities who become homeless.
People with disabilities including mental illness, chronic problems with alcohol and/or drugs, or conditions like AIDS may qualify. The program allows for a variety of housing options and support services that are paid by outside sources.
To be eligible, participants must be referred by an agency that has entered into an agreement with a local PHA. For more information, contact your city or county public housing agency. Or, to find a local organization that runs a Continuum of Care program, visit this list of COCs on the HUD exchange.
It can be difficult for low-income people with disabilities to find housing assistance. Once they do, it can take a while for the assistance benefits to kick in. The process can be stressful, but it's worth it for the families of people with a disability who are in need of the support.
For the most up-to-date information about housing assistance programs, contact the PHA in your area. You can find them on the HUD website by clicking on the link to your state.
|District of Columbia||North Dakota|
|Illinois||Puerto Rico / Virgin Islands|
Updated August 29, 2022