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A growing number of Americans are struggling to make ends meet, and housing costs are among the most challenging.
A study by Pew Trusts in 2018 found that 38% of renter households are classified as “rent-burdened,” or paying more than 30% of their monthly household income in housing costs. This figure is up from just 19% in 2001. That’s a big jump in the consequential cost of living.
As millennials find themselves in financial positions that prohibit homeownership difficulties in funding rental homes are becoming more common. First-time homeowners surveyed by BusinessInsider are paying an average of 40% more than they were forty years ago.
If you find yourself wondering how you’re going to cover your rent this month, you’re not alone.
In this article, we’re going to take you through everything you need to know to find and apply for rental assistance programs, and a few other creative measures you can take to help ease the burden of your rent.
When to Look for Help Paying Your Rent
At both the federal and the state level, there are programs available that can help you pay your rent. So, it is possible for you to stay in your home even when your bank account fails to keep up with the tides of change in your life.
All of these programs, however, require you to apply for support. You’ll need to work through the respective qualification process before you can actually get the cash that you can hand over to your landlord.
So, the earlier you can start the search for rent support, the more successful you will be. Don’t wait until your rent is due and your bank account is empty to start looking for help.
Most programs evaluate your eligibility based on your annual income. This means that you may be able to start the process right now. You’ll only need your most recent tax return documents, a few paystubs, or layoff notice.
Even if you are going to be able to pay your rent next month or the month after, if you’re running the numbers and know your income inevitably won’t cover your housing costs, begin the application process now.
Who is Eligible for Rental Assistance?
If you need help paying your rent but don’t qualify for a government-supported rental assistance program, you’ll want to start searching for solutions as soon as you recognize a strain on your finances.
Whatever your situation, know that you do have options, and those options should not include losing your home.
Financial assistance programs often have a bad reputation. Many people think that they don’t qualify for support because of where they live, how much they make, or even the level of education they’ve had.
In many cases, these misconceptions are fundamentally wrong. Misinformation serves only to put a stigma on people who have been able to wade through the system to get the support they need.
According to CBPP, 31% of federally assisted households live in suburban neighborhoods. Don’t get lost in the idea that only inner-city residents and large families get support paying their rent.
Your annual income is really the key determining factor for your eligibility.
To apply and qualify for most rental assistance programs, you will need to demonstrate that your income does not exceed a certain percentage of the median household income in your area. That’s usually between 30% and 80%.
Can Students Qualify for Rent Support?
Yes. Even students can be eligible for support. So it’s definitely worth searching for programs that are designed to offer aid to people in your specific demographic.
What If You live on or Rent a Farm?
If you live in a rural area, you can seek help from the United States Department of Agriculture. They provide several options for rental support.
Do You Need to Have Children To Get Support?
Not necessarily. There are many programs out there that cater to families. But if you have a very low income or a disability preventing you from earning enough to pay your rent, you can find a program that will help you.
What Are the Qualifications for Rental Assistance Programs?
There are literally thousands of programs out there, most at the state and county level. They will all have different requirements, but the key factor to be eligible for assistance will be your income. If your income is less than 30-80% of the median household income in your area, you probably qualify for at least one program. If you’re applying for help through a private program, you may have an even higher chance of receiving support.
How Rental Assistance Programs Work
Government-backed rental assistance programs come in a variety of flavors. Some in the form of subsidized housing. But chances are, if you’re searching for a way to cover your rent in the next couple of months, you probably don’t live in a qualifying unit.
Programs like HUD—The Housing Choice Voucher Program—provide financial support on your behalf directly to your landlord. These programs often don’t require you to move either.
Most programs are divided into two versions: long-term and short-term assistance. Both programs will provide direct help paying your rent, but short-term assistance is generally the easier of two to secure.
Long-term housing assistance is generally a more difficult form of support to qualify for. The rental assistance provided by these programs is available for an indefinite amount of time, and is only available under the Permanent Supportive Housing program. To qualify for long-term support, HUD Exchange says that applicants are limited to those people with a disability or families with an adult or child member with a disability and are in danger of homelessness.
This form of support occurs for periods of three months or less and is available to people in a variety of different situations. It’s generally the easier of the two to acquire and does not always require that you move into a designated low-income-housing facility.
Although there are programs out there that don’t require you to relocate to receive assistance, you can get even more comprehensive help paying your rent if you are willing to move.
For programs that offer rental assistance tied to specific rental properties, the government subsidizes your apartment with payments and perks that go directly to the landlord and ultimately keep a lower rent possible on the property.
What Rental Assistance Programs Should I Apply for?
Because many government programs have lengthy qualification processes and some even go into a lottery system when it comes time to award support, be sure to apply for all the programs you are eligible for.
If you’re eligible for more than one program, you may be able to find several different sources of assistance. To be eligible for aid, some federal programs require that you not already be receiving state assistance, but many programs afford room for exceptions.
Where to Find Rent Support from the Government
1. Search for State Rental Assistance Programs
To start your search, check out your state’s government website for rental assistance programs. Each state has its own programs and application processes.
Some states offer direct options to supplement your rent; others offer help to cover related costs of living like heating, electricity, other utilities, and transportation.
Start your search at the Us.gov database by finding your state and navigating to the respective housing support programs.
2. Look for County-Specific Rental Assistance Programs
Individual counties will often have funds and programs set up to assist citizens who with short and long-term rent-payment support.
Begin your investigation at your county’s website, but more often than not, the best information can be gathered by showing up in person at your county housing department and discussing your information with the staff there.
Never underestimate the knowledge of a receptionist. Start up a chat with the administrative personnel in the office, and you might walk away with access to programs that you won’t learn about anywhere else.
3. Apply for HUD
Contact your local Public Housing Agency to apply. Check out this link to find your specific agency.
The Best Government Rental Assistance Programs
For maximum support on this topic, it will be well worth your efforts to search at the local level and the federal level for support. Depending on your location, you may find an incredible city-specific program that will provide exactly what you need.
But, according to LendUp, these are the most effective rental assistance programs, generally speaking.
1. The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program pays on average 70% of your total rent. The payment goes directly to your landlord and can be applied to via your local Public Housing Agency.
2. Single Parents Alliance of America (SPAOA)
Geared at single parents, the Single Parents Alliance of America is funded by private donors. This program offers a variety of support types, including rent assistance.
Hopelink is geared more towards helping people who are already behind on their rent. They offer financial assistance and legal support for qualifying individuals facing eviction.
Where Else Can You Find Support?
Aside from government-funded rental assistance programs, there are a number of private funds that can offer you help.
Most of these will be willing to offer short term help. But they generally want to know that you will be able to handle your rent once the support they offer expires. Having a job when you approach these organizations for help can improve your chances of receiving support.
If you’re struggling to find government programs for which you qualify, try investigating the rental assistance programs offered by:
- Your local Salvation Army
- Catholic Charities
- Local Minority Support Organizations
- County Women’s’ Shelters
Other Creative Ways to Reduce Your Rent
If you don’t qualify for any formal rental assistance programs, there are still things you can do to reduce your rent. With a little creative thinking and some effort, you can find a solution that allows you to stay in your home.
1. Get a Roommate
If you’ve got an extra bedroom, or even if you’re going away for a few days, sites like Roommates.com make it easy to find someone with whom to share the costs of your home.
Roommates.com protects your information while you search for a housemate. It also allows you to filter potential matches based on your needs.
This platform is the most streamlined way to split your costs of living. And a good roommate can cut your rent in half—or more—with minimal impact on your lifestyle.
2. Adopt a Side Hustle
There are two ways to deal with your rent issue. Lower the amount of rent you’re responsible for or increase the amount of money you have to spend on everything else in your life.
Starting a blog, taking on freelancing clients, or getting a part-time job are all great options for lucrative side hustles. These activities can set you up with a reliable income stream for life. Although many of these are not immediate income solutions, they can yield beneficial results in the long-run.
Check out this article on how to make money without a job fast. You can get started on tackling your income disparity right now.
3. Negotiate with Your Landlord
Another commonly overlooked option for reducing your rent is going directly to your landlord. You can renegotiate the price of your unit.
Landlords are often willing to work with good tenants because finding a new occupant can be a costly and risky process.
Cutting your expenses will be one of the easiest ways for you to deal with the struggle to pay rent. Our experts have compiled a list of the 7 most effective ways to drastically cut expenses to help you get started.
How To Leverage Rental Assistance Programs
There are more options available when it comes to getting help with your rent every month. Resist the temptation to make assumptions about your eligibility. And try not to fall prey to the misconceptions surrounding financial assistance.
As a life-long taxpayer, you’ve paid into a system that has been designed to help people when they need it. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you have a right to the aid you need to live in a safe, healthy home.
Investigate the housing assistance options at the federal, state, and local levels, and be sure to start your search early.