Ways to Find Affordable Housing
Affordable housing used to mean that those on minimum wage incomes and those with fixed housing struggled to afford rent. However, the Brookings Institute now says middle-income families are also getting squeezed. According to the research, “in 2010, 11.2 percent of unsubsidized apartments were affordable to very low-income households. In 2016, only 4.3 percent of unit met that standard.”
Ninety percent of apartments are still affordable to middle income families, but there is a decreasing trend. Affordable housing is becoming harder to find for a greater range of people. So what can you do to ensure you’re not one of those left out in the cold?
1. Don’t move to California, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, or Texas if you’re in a low income situation. Some of the states with the best job prospects are also the most expensive states to live in. Don’t move before you have one of those jobs and a higher income.
2. Consider moving to one of the top ten cities identified by the National Association of Realtors and the US Census where homeowners who have 20 percent to put down on a home can easily qualify for a home purchase mortgage. These cities include: Toledo, Ohio, where you’d need a qualifying income of $23,613 and a 20% downpayment to qualify for buying a home and Fort Wayne, Indiana, where you’d need a qualifying income $24,760 with 20% down. Others include: Canton-Massillon, Ohio, Wichita, Kansas, Rochester, Syracuse, New York, and Peoria, Illinois.
3. Don’t pay more than 30 percent of your income on housing costs. Thirty percent is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s standard definition for “affordable housing.”
4. Get help finding affordable housing. If you have a low income, are a senior, are on disability or have a disability, you may be eligible for help from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to get affordable housing. While HUD doesn’t own or rent property, they provide money to states and building owners who do, and in turn, provides affordable housing. Find a HUD approved counselor in your area to see if you qualify. Call 1-800-569-4287 to start.
5. If you don’t want to go through the HUD voucher program, look for homeowner rentals or Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). They are almost always less expensive than apartment units or corporate owned units.
6. If you or your spouse is a veteran, contact The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA offers the HUD-VASD for homeless veterans and combines HUD housing vouchers with VA supportive services.
7. Are you a senior citizen? The Eldercare Locator is a free service that can connect you with resources and programs designed to help seniors in your area.
8. Do you live in a rural area? Local Rural Development (RD) offices helps rural residents through the Rural Housing Service.
9. Search rental properties on Craigslist, then verify the listing by checking public records (online) to determine if the advertiser is the real owner before signing a contract or giving them a deposit. If a price sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never submit an application before viewing the property and don’t be rushed into “acting fast” to reserve it. That’s typical of most scams. Look for rooms or apartments to sub-lease, or share too. It’s often possible to get six months to a year of reduced rent by sub-leasing or taking over someone else’s lease so they don’t have to break a contract.
10. Ask friends and co-workers if they know of any properties for rent. You’d be surprised at how many people know someone looking to rent, but is reluctant to advertise.
11. Post a notice, or look for ones, on public or community bulletin boards, around college campuses, in churches, synagogues or other community centers.
12. Contact realtors in your area. Many of them also know of homeowners who are looking to rent an ADU or other unit in their homes or on their property.
13. Drive around. Many homeowners do no more to advertise a rental property than to put a sign in their yard. So find a neighborhood and start looking.
14. Be willing to make changes to get the place you want. Some landlords take pets, some don’t. How willing are you to give up a pet to get affordable housing? Decide on your deal breakers right off the bat so you don’t waste time looking at a great place you can’t get into. Restrictions on housing rules can include smoking, children, and pets of any kind. Some private rentals can also restrict tenants by age (no college kids for instance).
15. Consider a live-in trade. Many homeowners who buy property to “flip” quickly find out how much work it can be. If you have plumbing, electric, or other housing skills, consider bartering housing for work. Large horse farms, estates and other properties often offer housing as part of a work agreement.
16. Consider living/working at a campground, tourist attraction or other large venue where employees live on-site in company housing as part of their employment.
If you’re renting, consider how you can make the move to home ownership and if that’s the right track for you. If trends continue, it may be the smartest move and a way to guarantee housing in the years to come.