Older Adult Rental Assistance Programs
Getting adequate and affordable housing is a major concern for older adults. Older adults often have limited incomes, less mobility, and increased expenses related to their health care. They are also more susceptible to abuse and financial exploitation.
Adequate housing for older adults should, at least, meet the following criteria:
- Located in a safe area
- Near transportation, grocery stores, and health care facilities or medical providers
- Adequate heating, air conditioning, and ventilation
- Meet housing, health, and safety code requirements
- Accommodations for mobility issues or other disabilities (ramps, handrails, etc.)
- Cost no more than 30% of an older adult's income
Older adults often face challenges in locating adequate housing they can afford. For those 65 years of age or older, finding low-income housing is an added challenge on top of health care and mobility issues.
To avoid eviction or foreclosure, older adults are often forced to make significant tradeoffs. This means cutting back on food, transportation, and medical expenses.
Fortunately, several resources are available to help older adults find affordable housing. One resource is older adult rental help programs.
What Types of Elderly Rental Assistance Programs Are Available?
Not all older adults can afford long-term care or caregivers. Senior centers and nursing homes are extremely expensive. For this reason, federal and state governments give rental assistance to low-income older adults. This is primarily through affordable housing or various housing voucher programs.
Affordable Housing Basics
Affordable housing is available to low-income families. This includes those who qualify as elderly or disabled.
Typically, tenants will not pay more than 30% of their monthly income for an affordable housing unit. Local PHAs that receive federal government funding own and operate such housing.
To be eligible for affordable housing, you must:
- Be 62 or older
- Have an annual income that's no more than the "lower income" limit for the geographical area
Housing Voucher Program Basics
Housing voucher programs involve rental assistance for private market rental units. One example is the Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly called "Section 8" ) run by HUD.
The PHAs pay the voucher directly to property owners. The resident pays the difference owed on the rent.
These programs involve a greater variety of housing options. Older adults can choose their preferred housing location from the private market. But, the property owner must agree to the voucher program's terms.
To be eligible for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, an adult must be 62 or older. They must also meet the "Very Low-Income Limit" for the geographical area. These limits are published annually by HUD.
HUD determines income eligibility for either affordable housing or housing voucher programs. HUD will look to the following sources:
- Wages, salaries, overtime, commission, fees, tips, and bonuses (before any payroll deductions)
- The net income from a business
- Interest, dividends, and any other net income from real or personal properties
- Payments from Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, retirement funds, disability, or death benefits
- Payments in lieu of earnings (unemployment, worker's compensation, severance pay, etc.)
- Access to public benefits such as veterans' benefits, unemployment compensation, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Alimony or child support
- Regular contributions or gifts from persons not residing with the applicant
How Do I Apply for a Rental Assistance Program?
If you or an older adult needs rental help, contact your local PHA to determine eligibility and submit an application.
You can locate a PHA near you by searching for resources by state on HUD's website.
You can also contact an attorney focused on government benefits. They can teach you more about federal and state rental assistance programs available to you. To find an attorney near you, see FindLaw's attorney directory.
Resources for Older Adults
Contact your state's human service or social service agency for additional information on rental assistance programs available to older adults at the state level.
For general information on fair housing and tenant rights, see FindLaw's Tenant Rights. For general information on housing discrimination, including age discrimination, see FindLaw's Housing Discrimination: FAQs.
Most states offer free legal services or legal aid to help older adults navigate a state's rental assistance program. It is helpful to have legal help when going through the eviction process. Contact a tenant rights attorney near you for legal advice and legal representation.
Contact your state's legal assistance program if you cannot afford to hire an attorney. The Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) Eldercare locater is also a great legal resource for older adults facing legal issues.
Lastly, if you or someone you know suffers from elder abuse, contact Adult Protective Services or your local long-term care ombudsman program immediately. Many states also have a toll-free elder abuse hotline. Once you have reported the abuse, consult with an elder law attorney near you.
Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?
- For situations involving housing, it’s best to ask an attorney their opinion
- Legal cases with rentals or facilities are rarely cut and dry
- Get customized advice and ask your legal questions
- Many attorneys offer a free consultation