Housing Programs for Senior Citizens

By Staff WriterLast Updated Sep 22, 2020 1:25:50 AM ET
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Housing is never cheap, and when you’re a senior on a fixed income who may have medical bills and more to cover, it can get downright expensive. It’s not uncommon for seniors to find themselves spending the majority of their retirement savings on rent.

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One option for seniors looking for a home to call their own is to turn to a housing program for assistance. These programs can vary greatly, but they generally provide subsidies or other forms of financial aid to ensure that seniors have a place to live without bankrupting themselves for those who otherwise might not be able to do that. Different housing programs have different requirements, but if you’re struggling to put a roof over your head, odds are good that you’re eligible for at least some kind of housing program.

Public Housing and the Section 202 Program

If you have a low income and can spend 30 percent of your income on rent and utilities, you could qualify for public housing. Run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), public housing tends to be situated in places where residents can access better jobs and education, while seniors can use it to remain independent and in their own communities for as long as possible. Although most public housing is in cities, one in five public housing developments is in a rural area.

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A similar program, the Section 202 program, also exists specifically for seniors. Section 202 housing is designed to offer a place to live for seniors who can safely live on their own but may need help with some parts of daily life, such as showering. Residents pay 30 percent of their income for housing with the rest of their rent and utilities covered by subsidies. Additional services, such as some meals, transportation and more, are often included.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program

The HUD also operates the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), formerly known as Section Eight Housing. This program is operated through 3,300 public housing agencies at the state, county and municipal level to provide rental vouchers to low-income people. Once approved, the applicant finds their own apartment in their area.

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A local agency verifies that the rental property complies with HCVP guidelines, and should it be deemed appropriate, the agency signs a contract with the landlord to allow the resident to live there. That agency also then pays part of the rent. While not exclusively for seniors, the HCVP can help seniors stay independent and in a neighborhood of their choosing.

Other Specialized Housing Programs

Housing programs also exist for groups that are particularly likely to find themselves in poverty or without housing in their later years. For instance, Native American seniors may want to contact the Office of Native American Programs, which is in charge of numerous housing and community development programs focused on providing for indigenous families, while Indian Housing Block Grants and other programs can help Native American tribes create accommodations for seniors on tribal lands.

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Similarly, veterans can turn to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) for help securing in-home medical care as well as favorable home loans and grants that can be used to buy, refinance or renovate their current homes. In both cases, the VA provides what seniors need to continue living where they already are. If all else fails, however, the VA can help veterans find retirement homes, assisted living facilities and more at an affordable price.

Housing programs for other groups also exist, from Americans with disabilities to those in danger of homeless. Two useful resources for finding additional housing programs include the HUD’s website and the government-run USAGov. Both sites have pages dedicated to connecting people in general and seniors in particular find housing.

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