Choosing the Best Type of Affordable Housing

Aug 19, 2023

What’s the best type of affordable housing? Before we discuss this, let’s first establish what constitutes “affordable.” The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines affordable housing as a residence that costs less than 30% of a person’s gross monthly income. That means if you make $30,000 per year, no more than $9,000 should be spent on rental or mortgage payments.

For low-income families, that often means there are fewer housing options available. Yet, the public consensus is that having a safe, decent place to live is a priority for all citizens. That’s where public housing and the Housing Choice Voucher Program (also known as Section 8) become important.

Public housing and Section 8 housing help ensure low-income individuals and families have a place to call home. Let’s take a look at the different types of affordable housing available to low-income individuals.

Different Types of Affordable Housing

What are the options for low-income families? Many low-income individuals and families turn to public housing or Section 8 housing. The primary difference between Section 8 and public housing is who owns and manages the properties. HUD manages both programs, but with Section 8, private landlords own the property and they accept Section 8 vouchers on behalf of their renters. Whereas, public housing is government-owned and -operated properties. Both programs are dependent on an applicant’s selection from the respective waiting list. PMHA’s waiting lists are managed by date and time of application and applicable local preferences. Section 8 and Public Housing have a Veteran/Military Preference. Applicants that are eligible for this preference are given priority on both the Public Housing and Section 8 waiting lists.

Public Housing

Public housing, are units, owned and managed by the Housing Authority, offers affordable living accommodations for low-income individuals and households. Those who are selected from the waiting list and meet all eligibility criteria will be offered an available unit. A family residing in Public Housing gets rental assistance as long as they live in Public Housing; if they want to move outside of the PMHA portfolio, they will lose their subsidy assistance under the Public Housing program.

Section 8

Section 8 is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled with housing in the private market, including single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments. A housing subsidy is paid to a private landlord directly by the housing authority on behalf of the participant, who then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.

What to Consider When Choosing Housing

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that there is far more demand for affordable housing than there are options available. And that’s true for public housing and Section 8 housing. That’s why it’s essential to know exactly what your requirements are when considering these affordable housing options.

How Much Space Do You Need?

Get a good idea of how much space you or your family may need in your home. For example, a family of four may struggle with the accommodations offered by a small studio apartment. On the other end of the spectrum, a single individual may not need a spacious three-bedroom house. Knowing your space requirements can make it easier to evaluate the options in your community.

Are the Places You Need To Go Nearby?

Is the housing affordable and close to other places you need to go like your job, schools, grocery stores, or gas stations? Does the housing offer easy access to public transportation? Even if a location is affordable, it’s also critical for it to provide easy access to the surrounding community.

What Do the Total Costs Look Like?

Beyond rent payments, be sure to know about additional costs to expect like utilities or parking fees. Also, consider these costs alongside other general costs of living such as food, medical care, and transportation. Taking a look at your total monthly costs can help make sure that either public housing or Section 8 housing is affordable based on individual circumstances.

Public Housing and Section 8 Options From PMHA

PMHA offers a range of options to low-income families seeking a place to call home within their budget. Explore our affordable housing or contact us if you have questions, comments, or requests.

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